Gordon Moore and his long-time colleague Robert Noyce founded Intel in July 1968. Moore initially served as executive vice president until 1975, when he became president. In 1979, Moore was named chairman of the board and chief executive officer, posts he held until 1987, when he gave up the CEO position and continued as chairman. In 1997, Moore became chairman emeritus, stepping down in 2006. 

During his lifetime, Moore also dedicated his focus and energy to philanthropy, particularly environmental conservation, science and patient care improvements. Along with his wife of 72 years, he established the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has donated more than $5.1bn to charitable causes since its founding in 2000.   

“Those of us who have met and worked with Gordon will forever be inspired by his wisdom, humility and generosity,” reflected foundation president Harvey Fineberg.

“Though he never aspired to be a household name, Gordon’s vision and his life’s work enabled the phenomenal innovation and technological developments that shape our everyday lives. Yet those historic achievements are only part of his legacy. His and Betty’s generosity as philanthropists will shape the world for generations to come.”  

World’s first commercially viable integrated circuits

Prior to establishing Intel, Moore and Noyce participated in the founding of Fairchild Semiconductor, where they played central roles in the first commercial production of diffused silicon transistors and later the world’s first commercially viable integrated circuits.

The two had previously worked together under William Shockley, the co-inventor of the transistor and founder of Shockley Semiconductor, which was the first semiconductor company established in what would become Silicon Valley.

Upon striking out on their own, Moore and Noyce hired future Intel CEO Andy Grove as the third employee, and the three of them built Intel into one of the world’s great companies. Together they became known as the 'Intel Trinity', and their legacy continues today. 

In addition to Moore’s seminal role in founding two of the world’s pioneering technology companies, he famously forecast in 1965 that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit would double every year – a prediction that came to be known as Moore’s Law. 

“All I was trying to do was get that message across, that by putting more and more stuff on a chip we were going to make all electronics cheaper,” Moore said in a 2008 interview. 

With his 1965 prediction proven correct, in 1975 Moore revised his estimate to the doubling of transistors on an integrated circuit every two years for the next 10 years. Regardless, the idea of chip technology growing at an exponential rate, continually making electronics faster, smaller and cheaper, became the driving force behind the semiconductor industry and paved the way for the ubiquitous use of chips in millions of everyday products. 

Among tech titans, he stood alone

Never the loudest guy in the room, Intel’s co-founder commanded huge respect, writes Walden Kirsch, who has worked as a writer, photographer and editor at Intel since 2000. 

Of the countless tech industry titans Silicon Valley has minted over the past six decades, Gordon Moore stood alone. He was “easily the most beloved”, wrote biographer Michael Malone. 

Moore was utterly unlike Robert Noyce and Andy Grove. Those two were the bigger-than-life personalities with whom Moore joined in 1968 to create Intel – what Malone, in his now-classic book The Intel Trinity called “the world’s most important company”.


By all accounts, Moore was neither brash nor in-your-face like Grove. Nor was he charismatic and high-energy like Noyce. The 'law' that bears his name was not self-proclaimed, but popularised by a Cal Tech professor in the mid-1970s. As one measure of his modesty, Moore once confessed to biographer Leslie Berlin that he was “embarrassed to have it called Moore’s Law for a long time”.   

I recently spoke with three people whose Intel lives significantly crossed with Moore’s. I was hoping to better understand the man’s character. What led Gordon Moore to achieve such success, fame and multibillion-dollar wealth – nearly despite himself?   

Arthur Rock: There at the start 

Gordon Moore “commanded authority because he was so bright”, Arthur Rock said from his office in Silicon Valley when I visited with him in 2022. Rock, age 95, is the famed early Silicon Valley venture capitalist who helped launch Intel in 1968. In addition to Intel, Rock also provided the important early funding for Apple and dozens of other firms. He would later serve as Intel board chair and watched Moore up close for many years. 

“When he said something, you’d better listen,” is how Rock recalls Moore.  

Rock has been widely credited with creating the venture capital model that gave rise to California’s tech industry explosion in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rock was especially skilled at listening to pitches, ideas, people with big plans.  

“All of Gordon’s decisions were methodical, well thought out,” recalls Rock, who chipped in $310,000 of his own, then rounded up the rest of the upfront money in 1968 to get Intel on its feet.  

I ask Rock what impression Moore left after their initial meeting. “None whatsoever,” Rock says with a laugh. That would soon change. Rock came to understand that Moore was not into “yelling and screaming”, but his ability to quietly analyse issues and challenges was “really remarkable”.

For example, when the painful decision was at hand in 1985 for Intel to pull out of the money-losing memory-chip business due to cut-throat competition from Japanese chipmakers, Moore “analysed it and came to a conclusion, and that was it”, says Rock. No drama. 

Moore was always focused and serious – and not just on the job. Rock recalls once asking Moore if he could join him to go fishing on his modest boat in San Francisco Bay. “I never got an answer,” says Rock. Why was that? I ask. “I didn't know how to fish. Gordon didn't want someone around who wasn't going to be serious about fishing.” 

Dorenda Kettmann: Where’s your badge? 

“He was just a very gentle, nice guy,” recalls Dorenda Kettmann.  

Kettmann started at Intel in 1972 as a lobby receptionist of the still-young company and saw Moore coming and going many days. Kettmann clearly recalls the morning Moore forgot to show his badge as he breezed past her into the building. “Oh my god, it’s Gordon Moore,” she remembers thinking. But she stopped him anyway. Did he raise even a minor fuss? No. “Oh yes, of course, here it is,” he told Kettmann, pulling out his Intel ID. 

“He was very unassuming, not flashy, didn’t try to show off,” says Kettmann. She remembers his car – a decade-old Mercedes – at about that same time. “Wow, he could do better than that,” she remembers thinking. Moore’s biographers confirm it.

His favourite vehicle was a pickup truck that Moore and his wife, Betty, would drive up into the mountains, where Moore loved to go rock hunting. For a time, Moore was the wealthiest individual in California, and in his later years became a leading American philanthropist. But in an interview for Intel’s quarterly video about 15 years ago, Moore confirmed his shopping preference: Costco.  

Later in her career, as Kettmann moved up in the Intel HR organisation, she was in meetings with Moore. “He just seemed brilliant, and when he spoke it was important to listen, because he didn't talk a lot like some others … He was very effective, just not the big voice in the room.” 

Intel had (and still has) a tradition of interviewing people who choose to leave the company. Kettmann says Moore took a special interest in these “re-interviews”. He would ask to see the notes. “He loved understanding what people thought ... and how the company was doing, and what worked well and what didn't work well.” 

Leslie Vadasz: In the room where it happened 

Flip over your Intel badge and check our your worldwide ID. It’s a big number, right? Les Vadasz was Intel employee number 00000003. (Actually, there’s some debate whether Vadasz or Andy Grove was employee No 3, and they didn’t use all those zeros back then, but you get the idea.) I talked in mid-2022 with Vadasz, who was then 85, from his home north of San Francisco. 

“Gordon would ask questions, not order people to go do things. He would ask questions,” recalls Vadasz. 

During the 35 years he spent at Intel, Vadasz was often in the room where it happened – where the biggest and most important decisions were made. An electrical engineer and, like Grove, a Hungarian immigrant, Vadasz initially headed chip design at Intel and later ran Intel Capital, the company’s investment arm. 

I asked Vadasz to help me understand what accounted for Moore’s remarkable career.  

“There is position power and there is knowledge power,” says Vadasz. “He did not exert his position power. He exerted, if anything, his knowledge power. People wanted to talk to him for his knowledge, for his instinct, not because he was the chairman of the company or the CEO. That was a unique capability of Gordon. It was very effective.” 

Although Moore was not a finance or a money guy, Vadasz says Moore was especially effective talking with Intel investors. Moore “never tried to sell them. He tried to teach them. He tried to explain our business … He was very straight with them. But he gave them an explanation, which the investment community needed because they didn't really understand the semiconductor business”. 

Everybody I talked with agreed that the preternaturally calm Moore never lost his cool. But Vadasz did recall the one time he heard Gordon Moore swear. Vadasz says he remembers it like it was yesterday. A half-dozen people were in a meeting discussing MOS technology. “Suddenly we hear Gordon say ‘s**t!’ The whole room became quiet because nobody had ever heard Gordon say anything like that.”

What had just happened? Moore had been playing with his coffee on the meeting room table. “He punctured a hole in the Styrofoam cup, and coffee had spilt onto his tie.” This is what counted for personal drama in the life of Gordon Moore. 

What I learnt about Gordon Moore 

What I learnt from my conversations is that Gordon Moore achieved greatness in the quietest way possible. He almost never sought out attention or demanded to be at the centre of it all. If anything, he ran the other way. His name and success at creating 'the world’s most important company' might ultimately eclipse the big headline-grabbing tech names of the current moment – Musk, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Nadella, Gates, Thiel and others.  

I recall the day in January 2015 when I covered a brief visit Moore paid to Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara. This was a big deal, and a small crowd of Intel folks had gathered to greet him. Moore arrived with no retinue or PR or minders.

He pulled up in a less-than-sparkling Mercedes, parked in just another space, and walked into the building. He watched a few tech demos, shook some hands, sat for a brief video interview, and smiled broadly when Intel’s then-CEO introduced himself as “the guy running your company”. Then he walked back to his car and drove off. That was it, no big speech, certainly no efforts at image-burnishing.  

Intel co-founder Gordon Moore generated respect and admiration from all who met him – just by earning it.  

Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO, said: “Gordon Moore defined the technology industry through his insight and vision. He was instrumental in revealing the power of transistors, and inspired technologists and entrepreneurs across the decades. We at Intel remain inspired by Moore’s Law and intend to pursue it until the periodic table is exhausted.

"Gordon’s vision lives on as our true north as we use the power of technology to improve the lives of every person on Earth. My career and much of my life took shape within the possibilities fuelled by Gordon’s leadership at the helm of Intel, and I am humbled by the honour and responsibility to carry his legacy forward.” 

Frank D Yeary, chair of Intel’s board of directors, said: “Gordon was a brilliant scientist and one of America’s leading entrepreneurs and business leaders. It is impossible to imagine the world we live in today, with computing so essential to our lives, without the contributions of Gordon Moore. He will always be an inspiration to our Intel family and his thinking at the core of our innovation culture.” 

Andy Bryant, former chairman of Intel’s board of directors, said: “I will remember Gordon as a brilliant scientist, a straight talker and an astute businessperson who sought to make the world better and always do the right thing. It was a privilege to know him, and I am grateful that his legacy lives on in the culture of the company he helped to create.” 

In 2022, Gelsinger announced the renaming of the Ronler Acres campus in Oregon – where Intel teams develop future process technologies – to Gordon Moore Park at Ronler Acres. The RA4 building that’s home for much of Intel’s Technology Development Group was also renamed the Moore Center along with its cafe, the Gordon. 

“I can think of no better way to honour Gordon and the profound impact he’s had on this company than by bestowing his name on this campus,” Gelsinger said at the event. “I hope we did you proud today, Gordon. And the world thanks you.”  

Gordon Earle Moore was born in San Francisco on January 3, 1929, to Walter Harold and Florence Almira 'Mira' (Williamson) Moore. Moore was educated at San Jose State University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology, where he was awarded a PhD in chemistry in 1954.  

He started his research career at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. He returned to California in 1956 to join Shockley Semiconductor. In 1957, Moore co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor, a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, along with Robert Noyce and six other colleagues from Shockley Semiconductor. Eleven years later, Moore and Noyce co-founded Intel.   

Passion for impact and measurement

With Fairchild and Intel came financial success. Beginning with individual gifts, many of them anonymous, then forming the Moore Family Foundation, and eventually, in 2000, creating the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Moore and his wife sought through philanthropy to make the world a better place for future generations. His passion for impact and measurement were hallmarks of his philanthropic work and aspirations.  

He received the National Medal of Technology from President George HW Bush in 1990, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, from President George W Bush in 2002. 

After retiring from Intel in 2006, Moore divided his time between California and Hawaii, serving as chairman of the board for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation until transitioning to chairman emeritus in 2018. Moore also served as a member of the board of directors of Conservation International and Gilead Sciences, Inc.

He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineers, and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He served as chairman of the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology from 1995 until the beginning of 2001, and continued as a life trustee. 

In 1950, Moore married Betty Irene Whitaker, who survives him. Moore is also survived by sons Kenneth and Steven and four grandchildren.