Shockley called his method of thinking "try simplest cases". But that is really what many good theoretical physicists do when confronted with a complex problem; they try to find a simple model. Only Shockley elevated it to a mantra. He could see his way through the first few stages of any problem very quickly, but he rarely employed his talents to look further below the surface or to check his models against reality. Those who had this ability - for whom Shockley undoubtedly had a good eye - would almost inevitably go off on their own because Shockley could never allow them to follow their own instincts. He saw them as competition and a threat to his authority. I know, because it happened to me in a small way in 1950, and, like others, I survived and may have been the better for it.
.... What comes out of the book well is Shockley's importance. He arguably saved Britain from the U-boats during the battle of the Atlantic. He is certainly the true father of the age of silicon. He is even the inventor of the graphite-moderated nuclear reactor. Yet the public will remember his name as that of the nutty Nobellist who donated his sperm to a genius bank. Who would not want to hear his whole story?This review is reprinted, along with several other fascinating ones, in More and Different.