Awardee Interviews | Biography: William R. Wheeler

William R. Wheeler

wheeler-(1).JPGWilliam R. Wheeler, one of the founders of Tencor Instruments, received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Lawrence Institute of Technology in 1943. He then joined Sylvania Electric where he developed subminiature electron tubes for the U.S. Navy's proximity fuses, ceramic-metal tubes for high temperature applications and oscillator and voltage amplifier travelling wave tubes. In 1960 he joined Varian Associates to work in their newly formed Vacuum Products Division. There he undertook a study of the reliability of metal gasket seal designs and this work led to the development of the Conflat flange seal whose near-perfect reliability has made it a worldwide standard. Knowledge gained from this project brought forth a variety of capture geometry seals for diverse applications such as the Wheeler flange (in sizes up to ten feet in diameter) and various kinds of ultrahigh vacuum valves. Mr. Wheeler contributed to the development of a wide range of vacuum feedthroughs, gauges, viewports, etc. for the Varian Vacuum Products Division. In 1976, he joined six colleagues in founding Tencor Instruments where he was responsible for mechanical engineering. Tencor Instruments has grown to be the second largest measurement instrument company serving the semiconductor industry, with many sophisticated products in the area of profilometry and thin film thickness measurement. Mr. Wheeler is contemplating retirement with some reluctance-not unusual for those with such outstanding careers in technology.