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Famous Pioneer of Silicon Valley: Victor Grinich

By Bob Gunovick

What comes to your mind when you hear the words “Silicon Valley”? Most people know that this is where the computer industry began in California over 50 years ago and is still the center of the hi-tec world. But, how many people know that a Croatian American from Aberdeen, Washington was one of the founders of Silicon Valley?

Victor Grinich was a pioneer in the semiconductor industry and a member of the “Traitorous Eight” that founded Silicon Valley. The son of Croatian immigrants, he was born as Victor Grgurinovich 1924, in Aberdeen. His father, Nicholas, was from Desne, Croatia and after immigrating to America, he settled in Aberdeen and became a member of the Aberdeen Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge 271. (Desne, near present day Ploce, is also the birthplace of another famous Croatian, Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills Winery in California.) Victor served in the US Navy during World War II. To make his last name easier to pronounce during military roll calls, he officially changed it to “Grinich”.

Victor Grinich received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in 1945 and a Master’s Degree in 1950, and then earned a Ph.D. in 1953 from Stanford University. He worked at the seminal Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. He was one of eight people who developed the transistor and this later led to the invention of the computer chip, the heart of all computers. He then left with other disgruntled members of the “Traitorous Eight” to create the influential Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation – thus, the beginning of the now-famous Silicon Valley. In the 1960s he left Fairchild Semiconductor to start teaching at the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University. His daughter, Anita Grinich, Portland attorney, told me that he had an opportunity to be a co-founder of Intel, but chose to continue teaching. In 1975 he wrote the textbook “Introduction to Integrated Circuits”.

On a personal note, my Father’s original name was also Grgurinovich, but later changed it to Gunovick; however, no relation to Victor Grinich. Victor is on the list of famous alumni at the University of Washington and Stanford. He passed away November, 2000. This brilliant son of a Croatian immigrant has certainly left his mark on the computer world.

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