Frances Hugle


Thanks to the family of Frances Hugle for the following information.

Frances Hugle was born Frances Betty Sarnat 13 August, 1927 in New York to Nathan and Lilyan (Steinfeld) Sarnatzky, both immigrants. She lived in Chicago until starting her first business with her husband, William Bell Hugle, in 1948.

Fran attended Hyde Park High School (where she and Bill met), being the first girl to win the Wilson Jr. College Math Tournament at age 16 in 1944.

Fran Math Article 1944She graduated that year and entered the University of Chicago, where she earned her Ph. B. in two years. She then entered the UC Medical School but left medical school in 1947. In 1948, they founded their first company together, Hyco-Ames, and the couple set it up at her parents’ apartment. Hyco-Ames focused on developing gem-quality star sapphires and rubies. Though Hyco-Ames never produced the gems (they were focused on securing funding and developing the equipment they needed), Fran designed and built a completely automatic Verneuil furnace, six cubic feet large, that could reach the necessary temperature of 3600 degrees.

Later in 1948, they secured financial support from New York attorney John G. Broady and Hyco-Ames became Stuart Laboratories. The company first operated out of Broady’s high-rise office building in lower Manhattan but later moved to North Bergen, New Jersey into a proper factory space. During the early years, Fran continued to design and build the crystallography equipment she needed but did not pursue patents on any of it. She was 21 years old and apparently still rather naive about such things. The company did succeed in creating the first gem-quality (translucent) star sapphires/rubies in November of 1949 and began selling the stones. However, in March of 1950, Linde (Union Carbide) filed a patent infringement suit against Stuart Laboratories and Bill Hugle and succeeded in shutting down production.  The company folded in 1951 after the courts ruled for Linde.

Linde went into production of its own star sapphires and rubies shortly thereafter, but all of their stones were opaque, having never achieved the translucence of Fran’s stones.

Fran Picture 1940s

From 1951 until 1953, the Hugles founded additional companies with contracts to grow crystals for the nascent electronics industry. Then in 1953, they were both hired by Baldwin Piano Company of Cincinnati. Baldwin at that time was expanding into the electronics business, initially to develop an electronic musical instrument, but later for broader purposes. Fran was Advanced Research Engineer at Baldwin and Bill her supervisor. While at Baldwin, she wanted to learn the business thoroughly and insisted upon building a piano herself from the bottom up. That piano was in our home and all four of her children learned to play on it.

At Baldwin, Fran and Bill became prolific inventors, filing numerous patent applications, some of which Baldwin formally filed and others that languished in Baldwin’s engineering division. Among those were patents filed in 1956 and 1957 for methods of producing semi-conductive films and printed circuits.

(See list below of patent applications.)

The Hugles remained a team throughout Fran’s life, always working together at their various endeavors, though they encountered numerous barriers in their early career to finding companies willing to hire a husband-wife team. Bill was both an inventor and an entrepreneur, while Fran preferred the engineering milieu to the business one. Still, she was not welcomed by many male engineers who resented having a woman supervisor or sometimes even a woman for a peer. Fran often said, “I am a woman and an engineer; I am not a woman engineer.” She rebelled against the idea that gender described the type of engineer she was.

The Hugles worked for other electronics companies after Baldwin, including establishing Westinghouse’s digital circuit plant in Pennsylvania in 1958, but moved to Santa Clara, California in 1961. There they founded numerous innovative electronics companies, all based on equipment and manufacturing processes they developed. One of the first (and the only one that survives under the same name today) was Siliconix. The other significant and highly successful company was Hugle Industries, which manufactured epitaxial reactors and wire bonders, for the industry in the 1960s. Bill was the President and Fran the research director. Though Hugle Industries was later bought out and absorbed by a larger company, one of its spinoffs, Hugle Electronics of Tokyo, is still in business.

The Hugles are considered important pioneers in the development of Silicon Valley. Considered by some her most significant patent, Fran’s 1966 process for Automated Packaging of Semiconductors (granted after her death in 1969) developed TAB (tape-automated bonding) for the first time, allowing the miniaturization we enjoy today in thousands of products from hearing aids to personal computers.

In addition to her technical work, Fran was politically and socially active. She helped found the first Headstart program in the Santa Clara Valley and protested against the Vietnam War, though never crossing the line to civil disobedience as she was a firm believer in the rule of law. She was active in the Unitarian Church and an adjunct professor of chemistry at the University of Santa Clara.

Fran loved the outdoors, hiking and camping in Yosemite, and surfing in Santa Cruz. She had a sharp wit and could hold her own in any conversation. She also enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen — which she regarded as her home laboratory — much to the chagrin of the children who had to eat her creations.

Fran Obit

Fran succumbed to stomach cancer at the age of 40 and died at her home. Her husband Bill went on to found many more electronics and holography businesses both in the US and around the world. He died in 2003.

IEEE has set up a STEM scholarship in her name, the Frances B. Hugle Memorial Scholarship. Any donations can be made through the IEEE website. There is a drop-down menu to select the appropriate scholarship.

Known Patents (and Patent Filings) of Frances Hugle

Note:  earliest patents assigned to Baldwin Piano and not clear if Frances alone or joint with William Hugle; some of later patents assigned to Westinghouse or Stewart-Warner.

Date of Application Date of Patent Patent Number Title
1 1955 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Mounting Means for Small Crystals
2 1956 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Crystal-Growing Process (Salt Melt)
3 1956 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Photoelectric Musical Instrument (Multiple Cells Responsive to Different Ranges)
4 29 March, 1956 01 Aug, 1961 2,994,621 Semi-Conductive Films and Methods of Producing Them (w/Wm. Hugle)
5 29 March, 1956 28 Dec, 1965 3,226,271 Semi-Conductive Films and Methods of Producing Them (w/Wm. Hugle)
6 05 April, 1957 19 Dec, 1961 3,013,956 Methods of Etching Metals in the Platinum Group and Producing Printed Circuits Therefrom (w/ Wm. Hugle)
7 1957 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Chemical Deposition Process (Cadmium Selenide)
8 1957 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Process for Producing Front-Surface Rhodium Mirrors
9 1958 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Method of Cutting Single-Crystal Phosphors (alkali Halides)
10 1958 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Method of Improving Time-Constant of Photocells
11 1958 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Electropiano (Tone Action Activation by Slow Photocells)
12 1958 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Temperature Control for Encoder (Cooling)
13 1958 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Photocell Assembly (Silicon, Photovoltaic)
14 05 Feb, 1959 08 June, 1965 3,187,414 Method of Producing a Photocell Assembly (w/Wm. Hugle)
15 Before 1959 Appl. 633,150 Formation of Semi-Conductive Crystals and Films — have undated application copy
16 Before 1959 Appl. 656,915 Capacitors, including Photo-Capacitors, Employing Semi-Conductors
17 Before 1959 Appl. 791,400 Photocells and Method of Manufacturing Photocells
18 1959 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Photocapacitor Employing Semi-Conductor
19 1959 As of 1959 –Unfiled but docketed; have abstract Wave Form Reproducer (Mirrors Scan)
20 25 July, 1961 A Cheap Planar CBTL Block for Low Frequency (<100 KC) Operation
21 21 Jan, 1963 12 Jan, 1965 3,165,430 Method of Ultra-fine Semiconductor Manufacture
22 08 April, 1963 28 June, 1966 3,258,359 Semiconductor Etch and Oxidation Process
23 22 April, 1963 27 June, 1967 3,328,214 Process for Manufacturing Horizontal Transistor Structure
24 22 April, 1963 12 April, 1966 3,246,214 Horizontally Aligned Junction Transistor Structure
25 30 Sept, 1963 Appl. 312,385 Planar Double-Diffused Transistor Process
26 21 Sept, 1964 Have longhand version, letters to/from patent office Aluminum Ball Bonding
27 14 April, 1965 Have application, no filing number Ultra High Speed Logic Gates in Integrated Form Using Metal-Semiconductor Diodes (w/Jack Bamberg)
28 14 April, 1965 Have application, no filing number Method of Providing Dielectric Insulation for Integrated Circuits (w/Jack Bamberg)
29 14 April, 1965 Have application, no filing number Low Voltage Zener Diodes
30 14 April, 1965 Have application, no filing number A Radiation Resistant Field Effect Transistor
31 07 July, 1965 Have application, no filing number Semiconductor Photo-Latch
32 Oct, 1967 3,344,555
33 20 June, 1966 02 Sept, 1969 3,465,213 Self-Compensating Structure for Limiting Base Drive Current in Transistors
34 22 June, 1966 22 April, 1969 3,440,027 Automated Packaging of Semiconductors (first TAB process)
35 10 Oct, 1966 02 Dec, 1969 3,481,801 Isolation Technique for Integrated Circuits
36 12 June, 1967 09 Sept, 1969 3,465,874 Carrier for Semiconductor Devices (w/Wm. Perrine)
37 15 June, 1967 02 Sept, 1969 3,465,150 Method of Aligning Semiconductors
38 19 July, 1967 06 April, 1971 3,574,007 Method of Manufacturing Improved MIS Transistor Arrays
39 24 July, 1967 06 April, 1971 3,574,014 Masking Technique for Selective Etching
40 13 May, 1968 22 Dec, 1970 3,549,232 Microscopic Alignment Mechanism (filed 11 days before she died)
41 04 Sept, 1968 16 Dec, 1969 3,484,621 Sequencing Mechanism Electronic Logic
42 c. 1965 Paddle Glove (for surfing)   — have undated application copies
43 Undated Integrated Schotky Diode Digital Circuits — have patent disclosure only
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8 Responses to Frances Hugle

  1. Cheryl Hugle says:

    This fairy tale regarding Frances Sarnat (m. Hugle) is a near total desecration of the truth either through outright fabrications or deceptive omissions.

    Some of the omissions are:

    1) Baldwin was a household name in pianos but they were also a military contractor working on rocket technologies often in partnership with Boeing. And before joining Baldwin, Frances worked for another military contractor where she was granted a security clearance (these facts are per her resume).

    2) While at Baldwin, Frances invented the integrated circuit and filed a patent for it in 1956. This was years before either Noyce of Kilby filed. Yet Noyce and Kilby were awarded their patents while her claims were still waiting. Her claims were finally granted but years after Noyce and Kilby.
    (Please see this discussion:

    3) She also invented the microprocessor. I have given detailed exposes of these facts on the Talk pages of her Wikipedia page (quickly archived to conceal this history).

    She also quite possibly developed the crystals for the first transistor.

    This fallacious article also masks the fact that she founded her first company WITHOUT the involvement of her (soon to be) husband… who was much later involved in burying her true contributions and insuring that those who claimed her technologies as their own did so with impunity.

    Her husband even went so far as to assign one of her major patents to himself following her demise… a demise that is somewhat suspicious because two other wives of his close associates also developed the same cancer within a year of Frances’ death (I have computed the statistical probability of this at one in ~ 9 billion).

    And she most certainly NEVER built a piano from the ground up! The two we had in our home were early pianos built by Baldwin long before she was even born that were gifts from her boss… as was much of the furniture we had, hand-me-downs.

    This article is a tragic example of how to write a story about which one knows very little (actual inventions and work history) while spicing it with human interest inventions to lend an air of credibility. So so sad. My mother was a brilliant person of unusual integrity… who would never have stooped to such a level… Shame, shame, shame on those responsible.

    May the truth about Frances Hugle’s life finally be freed from its detractors!

    My mother carved out both her husband’s career and her own. This is the story told to me by John Jordan, the former Vice Chairman of Baldwin, when we were working together. It is about how he came to hire my parents: “Young engineers were always so arrogant when they were seeking employment so I decided to do something to deflate them. I got together with Ted, my chief engineer (later my mother’s research assistant), and we devised a test. We made all the engineering applicants take it. It had all sorts of esoteric questions on it… things almost no one would learn in school. So one day, Ted knocks on my door and says, “There’s a woman here who wants to come to work for us as an engineer.” So I said, “Well, give her the test.” And Ted said, “I already did.” So I said, “Well, what score did she get?” “65” No one had ever gotten a score over twenty! So I told Ted, “Then hire her!” Then Ted said, “Well, there’s a problem. She has a husband and she said if we want her, we have to take him too.” So I said, “Then hire both of them!” “

  2. Dave Dully says:

    My parents (Joe and Gwen Dully) were friends of your parents, and even though I was just a little kid in the sixties, I have many fond memories of your mother, Frances Hugle. I have no additional technical information to add here – I just want to thank you for your post. I remember your mother as being a very warm and caring person, as well as someone who was very intelligent and had a truly extraordinary personality. I was only seven years old when my family learned that she was dying of cancer, but I remember vividly that we were all in tears. My parents were particularly devastated. (One thing I remember about visiting the Hugle’s was the balancing board (or bolo board?) that I always tried to master, but always ended up falling off. )
    Given the lack of respect shown female scientists in the sixties (and earlier), and knowing just a bit about your mother personally, I would not be surprised if everything you state above is true. It is not only sad that she died so young, but also upsetting that she did not get the credit that she deserved in her lifetime. Thanks again for the enlightening info you offer above.
    Dave Dully

    • Cheryl Hugle says:


      I will never forget my mother lying on the floor and playing with you by holding you up with her feet. Do you remember that? She had such a special fondness for your family. Your father visited right up till the end… Thank you for the reply.


      • Dave Dully says:

        Hi Cheryl,
        I’m so glad (and surprised) that you remember me. I don’t specifically remember your mother holding me up with her feet, but I do clearly remember her being very affectionate and playful, and that she always made me laugh. My memories of those days are very spotty, but we absolutely LOVED going to your house. To my brother and I, Frances was like a young, funny, smart, and wonderful grandmother. Even though my life at home was very turbulent back then, your mother had a very positive and powerful influence on my parents and on my brother and me. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to know her, if only for a few years. Feel free to contact me at anytime to share memories.

  3. Hi, may I ask where you got the first image of Frances Hugle? I am writing from Santa Clara University Archives & Special Collections. Someone thinks the photo came from our collections but I am not positive this is the case. Please let me know, your help is much appreciated.

    • Cheryl Hugle says:

      I didn’t contribute the pictures and the person who did, Linda Hugle, died over a year ago. But I doubt this image came from Santa Clara University’s archives. It is an early picture, dating from before she taught at Santa Clara, that was no doubt in one of the family albums that Linda kept.

      • Cheryl, by happenstance (buying what appears to be a Hugle electronic clock in an antique store yesterday) I came across Frances Hugle’s Wikipedia entry. I see from archived WP:Talk that the topic of a photo came up. Do you know if any of the above photos of her can get over WP’s Creative Commons license hoops? I didn’t know if these started out as family photos, and thus I’d guess to be copyright to you.

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