Jack S. Kilby, the inventor of the integrated circuit, who died on Monday in Dallas. Were it not for the pioneering inventiveness of Kilby -- along with that of Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce and other microchip engineers -- device software as we know it today simply could not exist. For that matter, this Web site wouldn't exist, either. And most of us visiting this site would be doing something very different for a living.
Yet despite Kilby's enormous achievement, not to mention the rise of an enormous industry around his invention, he remained a modest, soft-spoken man. "We expected to reduce the cost of electronics, but I don't think anybody was thinking in terms of factors of a million," he told an interviewer. Later, according to one of his daughters, Kilby was asked what he had done after learning that he had won the 2000 Nobel Prize in physics. His reply: "I made coffee."
A cup of coffee, then, for this modest, brilliant inventor.