From: "Nance L Briscoe
To: "Peter H Proctor" <>
Cc: "Nance L. Briscoe"
Subject: Re: Very Early Organic Semiconductor Device
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 17:26:02 -0400
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THANK YOU Peter !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I so wish all donors where as specific and could follow through as well as you!!
YES - ABSOLUTELY we will be very pleased to receive this donation to the collections! I want this item to be added to the reference source chip site at as well - any copyright will forward to the Smithsonian - you need to know that. However all credit is given to the donor, scientist, etc for the technology - we own copyright on all things provided for history's sake in research with the donor(s)' names and/or contact always involved.

Nance Briscoe
----- Original Message -----
From: Peter H Proctor
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 6:26 PM
Subject: Very Early Organic Semiconductor Device

Dear Ms Brisco;

          As a followup to our converstion of last week:   We wish to either donate or place on permanent loan to the Smithsonian the following item,   for the purpose of exibition:

Melanin Bistable Switch--- A very early organic semiconductor electronic device. 


       This device was constructed at  the Physics Department of  the University of Texas MD  Anderson Hospital in the Fall of 1973.    It was then used  in a series of experiments published in 1974 in the Journal Science,   titled  "Amorphous Semiconductor  Switching in Melanin ".    This paper is posted online at .

      About 1978,  the device was moved by  John McGinness to his home laboratory,  where it was used for further experiments in the development of a battery using an organic semiconducting material.      The  apparartus remained there until June of 2002,  when  Dr McGinness gave it to me.     Belatedly realizing its historical value,    I have since kept it in my office under lock and key.

Special  significance:

1)   This is likely the first reported electronic device to use an organic semiconductor as the active element.  In any case,  it antedates the next report we can find of such a device by about 8 years.

2)   The ON state of  this switch  has almost metallic conductivity,    This antedates Shirawkawa et als Nobel-Prize-winning 1977 report of similar ( but passive )  high conductivity in another polyacetylene.   So this device has basic science,  as well as technological significance.

3)   Melanin is a polyacetylene and vice versa.    Technically,  most,  if not all,  subsequent  organic semiconductor  devices also use some polyacetylene-derivative as the active element.  So this device is their immediate ancestor .

        I am attaching some photos of this device.   The vial contains diethyamine-doped melanin.  This is what we used for the original experiments,  although vial is from 1977,  still well-before anything similar.   If you wish,  we can donate this material,  but will attempt to find an earlier sample.

Yours truly, 

Peter H. Proctor, PhD, MD