May 6, 2008

Former Sandia Labs Director Morgan Sparks dies

Inventor of first practical transistor

Morgan Sparks with transistor
Morgan Sparks with transistor
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Morgan Sparks, a former director of Sandia National Laboratories, inventor of the first practical transistor and a longtime civic leader in Albuquerque, died on Saturday May 3 at his daughter's home in Fullerton, Calif. He was 91 years old.

Sparks served as Sandia Labs director from 1972 until his retirement in 1981.

Prior to Sandia, Sparks had a 30-year career with Bell Laboratories in New Jersey and is best remembered as the person who fashioned the first practical transistor, the semiconductor device that has revolutionized almost every aspect of modern life.

Billions of these microscopic switches now crowd the surfaces of the most advanced microchips, allowing them to make myriad calculations in an eye-blink. Without transistors, one cannot begin to imagine personal computers, cell phones, DVD players and the many other electronic devices we rely on daily.

Current Labs Director Tom Hunter says, “Morgan was president when I was a young staff member at Sandia. He set the framework for Sandia to become a multiprogram lab. He was widely recognized for his ability to engage the Labs in many new areas that proved to be important for our future. He was also a great supporter of the country and the University of New Mexico. He made a big impact on all of us.  I spent some time with him at the Nevada Test Site in the early '70s. He was a credit to the lab and, true to our mission, provided exceptional service to the nation.”

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) said “Morgan Sparks set the standards for the professional, efficient management of Sandia National Labs. He recognized the future need to brand science into technology transfer, and he laid the groundwork to link defense based research to applications that impact all our lives every day.”

Morgan Sparks at Bell Labs
Morgan Sparks at Bell Labs
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After his retirement from Sandia, Sparks accepted an appointment to the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at The University of New Mexico where he served as Dean from 1981 to 1984. He was also active in Albuquerque civic life, serving as chair of the United Way, the Police Commission Task Force, and leading the effort to keep and enhance the activities sited at Kirtland Air Force Base. He served on the boards of Presbyterian and Lovelace hospitals, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and Albuquerque Academy. Until 2007 he was president of High Desert Investment Corporation, the developers of the High Desert and Mariposa communities.

In 2006 he was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Elizabeth MacEvoy Sparks. They have four children, Margaret Potter of Waitsfield, Vt., Gordon Sparks, also of Waitsfield, Patricia Fusting of Fullerton, Calif., and Morgan Sparks, of Burlington, Vt. A memorial service will be held in Albuquerque later this month.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Stephanie Holinka, 505-284-9227,