There is a quote attributed to Enrico Fermi on what characteristics were common to Nobel Prize winners: "I can't think of a single one. Not even intelligence." While there's no solid evidence he really said that (people have attributed it to two different pages of an old physics journal), I like to believe he did because it's humorously bitchy. Oh no you din'nt, father of the nuclear reactor!
"Oh I went there."
The point is, geniuses tend to only be geniuses on one subject. Just as you don't ask Peyton Manning for soccer tips, you don't ask a veterinarian to do your prostate exam. And you really don't want to ask William Shockley about genetics.
Talked Out Of His Ass About: Genetics
William Shockley was probably named by the same people that write Batman comics, because he invented the transistor.
Rejected names: John Electron, Brian Semiconductor.
The transistor became the basis of a new invention called the "computer" which I suspect those of you reading this may be familiar with.
After a failed attempt at running a business, he became a professor at Stanford, which was more than happy to take on a Nobel Prize winner. While he enjoyed the job, he apparently had way too much spare time to think about non-physics related things. Like eugenics.
He decided that intelligence is determined by our genes, which most people agree is partially true. Then he decided that black people had less of these good genes, and it all went to hell. Highlights of his self-destructing career path include a Senate campaign on the platform of sterilizing people with sub-100 IQs, and becoming the only Nobel Prize winner to answer a call for donations to a superbaby sperm bank.
According to IMDB, he also played a rapist in Showgirls. Movie makeup is amazing these days!
Robert Graham, the founder of the sperm bank, sent out invitations to 25 or so Nobel Prize winners as part of a mission to encourage reproduction of the best and brightest before the world was flooded with morons. Three actually participated but none admitted it except for Shockley, who also added that the Nobel winners that refused to donate should be ashamed. Graham advertised his... product... as a selection of "the choicest genes... above average is not enough." For some reason, the public responded negatively to this, forcing Shockley to, uh, pull out, so to speak. Someone out there was buying though, because the bank stayed in business for 19 years.
And who could blame him for wanting to spread his sexy superhero genes?
As he saw it, all the hubbub was because everyone was misunderstanding his views, blowing it out of proportion when he said innocent things like, "If you found a breed of dog that was unreliable and temperamental, why shouldn't you regard it in a less favorable light?" Communication issues aside, he literally did want to reduce the black population and sterilize low-IQ people, and all his care in selecting interviewers and tape-recording every conversation did nothing to clear up the "misunderstandings" he thought were causing his problems.
How did this affect his career? Well, Stanford really didn't do anything about it except let him keep on keeping on, even making him a professor emeritus when he retired (about 10 years after he started airing his views on eugenics). That's Latin for a retired professor who is so awesome that he will be given an honorary title for the rest of his life and will always have a home at Stanford.
Yes, it's really called Leland Stanford Junior University. One of the more useful facts I learned at Berkeley.
The protection of Stanford aside, very few others wanted anything to do with Shockley as the years went by. He died an outcast, which is a little sad considering those who knew him paint a picture of a guy who was not a horrible man, but just... really clueless about anything that was not a transistor.