A Brief Look at Electrical Scientists: Calvin Souther Fuller
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Experimenting, researching, analyzing and theorizing take a lot of effort, as well as a lot of time in the scientific world. Working for a long time with no results was common for some, if not many, people. While some abandoned their work in frustration, that didn’t stop Calvin Souther Fuller. In the final post in a series of blog posts, we’re looking at the physical chemist who contributed numerous ideas and methods to the scientific world, many of which are used today.

Calvin Souther Fuller
Having been born and grown up in the metropolis of Chicago, it seemed only logical for Fuller to attend the University of Chicago for undergrad, as well as earning a Ph.D. in physical chemistry there in 1929. It was also only rational for Fuller to continue on working in the chemistry field after receiving his degrees.

In 1930, Fuller began working at Bell Labs where he researched organic insulating materials and began looking at polymers. It was at Bell Labs that Fuller met Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson and the trio worked on creating the world’s first silicon solar battery. The three men distributed boron into silicon, wanting to capture the power of the sun. This experiment thus created one of the first ways to gather energy from the sun and turn it into a form of current for electricity. The men used small strips of silicon to capture the sunlight, and then freed the electrons to form a continuous current of electricity.

While others may take this success and just stop there, Fuller did not. Along with the birth of the world’s first solar cell, Fuller helped contribute to the electrical world in other ways. During his time at Bell Labs (which eventually became AT&T Bell Laboratories), Fuller also experimented with polymers. He was able to study what caused elasticity and tensile strength of the polymers, making them the readily useable tool that we depend on today.

For the 37 years he worked for Bell Laboratories, Fuller experimented and juggled multiple different ideas. During World War II, Fuller was a part of the team that developed a synthetic rubber, which became useful to many troops and civilians. With Fuller’s research and development, around 700,000 tons of synthetic rubber were produced in 1945. Fuller was also able to create a method of transistor production that produced diffusion transistors, a breakthrough for its time.

Not everything Fuller did contributed to electrical needs, but his most well known accomplishment of being a part of the creation of the first solar cell did. With the hard work and determination Fuller put toward everything he worked on, he was able to be successful in many of his pursuits. While the case may be that not everything Fuller worked on worked out in his favor, his investigations and experiments were able to help out future generations and the scientific world as well.

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