DALLAS (SMU)— Jack St. Clair Kilby’s invention of the integrated circuit (IC), or microchip, at Texas Instruments in 1958 revolutionized the world, creating limitless applications for computers, calculators, space-age technology and much more. For his contribution to the field of engineering, Kilby received numerous awards and honors, including the Nobel Prize in Physics, National Medal of Science and induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame. Unknown to most people, however, is Kilby’s artistic bent, which included making photographs of great sensitivity and beauty. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Kilby’s significant invention of the microchip, the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University presents an exhibition to celebrate Kilby the photographer. Jack Kilby: The Eye of Genius – Photographs by the Inventor of the Microchip, on exhibit from July 12 through September 21, 2008, will feature 58 of his finest works drawn from the collection of his remarkable photographs now housed at the DeGolyer Library at SMU.
A quiet, unassuming man, Jack Kilby (1923-2005) was a celebrity in the field of engineering but was relatively obscure as a photographer; only his family and a few friends knew of his passion for the subject. Despite a demanding career at Texas Instruments, he was a serious photographer with prolific and varied output. He used a Hasselblad medium format camera, developed his own negatives and showed real ingenuity in framing, printing and cropping his photographs. He eagerly captured people at work, cityscapes, and industrial landscapes, and he also used various photographic processes to experiment with abstraction. In particular, he took a keen interest in laborers and their occupations, and photographed them from many trades and locations – construction workers high atop beams and girders, steel mill workers pouring molten metal, cowboys taking a cigarette break.
Kilby exhibited his prints both locally with the Dallas Camera Club and nationally at juried salons organized by the Photographic Society of America (PSA). He took a leave of absence from TI in 1970 to work as an independent inventor, which gave him more time for photography; the following year, his work was accepted in 24 international salons, including one at the Seattle Art Museum, which purchased one of his prints.
By the mid 1980s, probably due in part to his failing eyesight and hearing, Kilby was no longer active in photography, but he left a prodigious body of work from the previous 20 years – some 18,000 negatives. Moreover, he continued to be remembered in photographic circles, and in 1991 received the PSA’s highest award, the Progress Medal. Among other achievements, the award recognized him “For his creative genius that ultimately led to enhanced picture quality through automatic operation of cameras and photographic equipment. For his engineering skills from which modern computers and superior lens technology evolved….For inventing the hand-held calculator, an extraordinary device that has so enhanced the everyday lives of photographers.”
After Kilby’s death in 2005, his daughters donated a significant collection of materials relating to both his career as an engineer and life as a photographer to SMU’s DeGolyer Library, home of the Texas Instruments corporate archive. The donation includes Kilby’s photograph collection of over 18,000 negatives and prints, in addition to his papers, personal books and numerous awards. The Eye of Genius exhibit will highlight his photographs as well as selected manuscripts and such objects as Kilby’s original notebook with the IC design drawings, Nobel Prize, first microchip and calculator, all drawn from the TI historical archives, Jack Kilby collection and some loaned material from the family and Texas Instruments. Curated by Anne E. Peterson, DeGolyer Library’s Curator of Photographs, this exhibition has been organized by the Meadows Museum in collaboration with the DeGolyer Library with generous support from The Meadows Foundation and Texas Instruments. It will be on display in the downstairs galleries, which are open to the public free of charge, from July 12 to September 21, 2008.
About the Meadows Museum
The Meadows Museum, a division of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, with works dating from the 10th to the 21st century. It includes masterpieces by some of the world’s greatest painters: El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Murillo, Goya, Miró and Picasso. The museum is located at 5900 Bishop Blvd. on the campus of SMU, three blocks west of the DART light rail Mockingbird Station. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 12-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 per person, free on Thursday evenings after 5 p.m., and free for children under 12, museum members, and SMU faculty, staff and students. Ample free parking is available in the museum garage. For information, call 214-768-2516 or visit the museum’s Web site at www.meadowsmuseumdallas.org.