The University of Utah
Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah

Dr. Frank Wanlass (1933-2010)

Dr. Frank Wanlass was the department's Alumni Spotlight back in Spring 2010. He passed away in September 2010. His obituary is below.

May 17, 1933-September 9, 2010

Dr. Frank Marion Wanlass died peacefully in his home in Santa Clara, CA the afternoon of September 9, 2010 from the complications of diabetes. He was under the care of Heartland Hospice, and his devoted brother David Wanlass.

He was born in Thatcher, Arizona, the son of Frank Evans and Josephine Robinson Wanlass.  He spent his childhood years in Nephi, UT, Pleasant Grove, UT, and Mesa, AZ, finally moving to Ogden, UT at age 11 where he graduated from Ogden High School and started his higher education at Weber University.  He served his country in Army intelligence during the Korean War from 1953-55.  He later went on to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where he earned his PhD in physics in 1962 with Dr. Henry Eyring as his mentor and major professor. He married Carolyn Clark in 1957, and they had four children: W. Tane Wanlass (Valerie), W. Bryn Wanlass (Kim), Justine W. Turcotte (Stephen), and Bonnie W. Gonzales (Bryan). He has 14 grandchildren. Frank and Carolyn divorced in 1970, and he moved to California and later married Narci Fisher. They were divorced in 1981.   He had a special friend Barbara Ramirez from 1989 until her death from cancer in 2001.  He lived and worked in the Cupertino/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, CA area from 1970 onwards.  He very much enjoyed his associates, and the climate in California.

In the early 1960’s, while still at the University of Utah, he had a “quantum leap” to formulate the idea of CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor), the technology employed in most modern microchips. After his graduation he perfected this idea while working for Fairchild Semiconductor.  He was awarded patent 3,356,858 in 1967 for his invention.  At the time, CMOS drew six orders of magnitude less power than the day’s state of the art circuits.  Their low power consumption makes CMOS circuits particularly well suited for battery powered devices.  One of the first applications Wanlass worked on was the digital watch. CMOS chips found wide application in many devices in the 1970’s, and are now part of nearly every electronic device.

Wanlass left Fairchild in 1964, and since then involved himself in several start up companies, as well as working independently. He was awarded the IEEE Solid-State Circuit Award in 1991 for his invention, and was inducted into the Inventor Hall of Fame in 2009.  These awards meant a lot to him. His mind was active and sharp to the end of his life.

Wanlass was preceded in death by his parents, and a sister Joyce. He is survived by his brothers John, David, William, and Mark, and their families, as well as by all of his children and grandchildren.  Services will be held in Utah on Saturday September 18 as follows: viewing at Aspen Funeral Services from 11am to 12:30 pm  3287 W Parkway Blvd. (2640 S), West Valley City; graveside service at 2 pm at the Provo City Cemetery, 610 S State Street, Provo.

I LUV CMOS was on Frank’s personalized California license plate.

  • Dept of Physics & Astronomy • 201 James Fletcher Bldg. 115 S. 1400 E., Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0830
  • PHONE 801-581-6901
  • Fax 801-581-4801
  • ©2018 The University of Utah