Frederick Terman - By Ed Sharpe
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The Life of Frederick Terman - By Ed Sharpe
from SMEC Vintage Electrics Vol #3, Issue #1 1991 ( now SMECC)

Is this to be a story of electronics, or about the history of radio? Should we dwell on the angle of Frederick Terman helping start the electronics revolution in the bay area of California? What if we were to cover the story of Harvard Radio Laboratories and the development of electronics countermeasures? The story of Fred Terman covers more one subject. We will portray some of the areas that he was involved with and had an effect on. This is, by no means, a complete accounting of the life of Frederick Emmons Terman. What the reader will determine from the evidence presented here is that Fred Terman was a great teacher, leader, friend to his students and associates, and deserves the title, "Father of Silicon Valley." While he was on this earth he left his mark on so much and so many of us. -Edward A. Sharpe

The birth of Fred Terman - 1900.

Frederick Terman was the first born son of celebrated Stanford Psychologist Lewis Madison Terman and his wife Anna Terman, on June 7, 1900, in English, Indiana. Due to Lewis Terman's problem with chronic tuberculosis, the family moved to the warmer climate of Los Angles in 1905. In 1910, the family moved to the Stanford area when Lewis Terman accepted a faculty position at Stanford University. (5)

Lewis Terman, was both an educator and a psychologist. He was best known for his development of the Stanford-Binet intelligence test. Lewis had a lifelong interest in individual giftedness, and leadership abilities. Fred Terman was influenced by his fathers ideas and was to later use them in identifying faculty and students who possessed the highest potential for success. Growing up around the Stanford Campus was excellent training for Fred's future avocation as a professor. (5)

Young Boyhood-The start of Fred Terman and Radio.

Seventeen-year-old Fred Terman appears to be operating his homemade dot-and-dash transmitter at his home in Palo Alto sometime in 1917-18. Becoming a radio ham led him directly into electrical engineering. Photo: Courtesy, Hewlett-Packard's Measure magazine - December, 1973.

Lewis Terman didn't allow Fred to enter public education until he was 9 years old. It is apparent that Lewis Terman spent time educating his son during those early pre-school years, as Fred was to graduate from Stanford at age 20, with a degree in chemistry in 1920. (5)

Not all of Fred Terman's childhood years at Stanford were in preparation for a life-long career as a professor. Fred Terman enjoyed hiking in the Stanford foothills, fishing in Felt Lake, and swimming in Lagunita. At the age of 13 or 14 (depending on which reference you check) in the 1913-1914 time frame, along with co-conspirator Herbert Hoover Jr., Fred experimented with amateur radio. Fred Terman built a crystal receiver using a silicon detector. After he assembled the receiver, and a good 15 to 20 minutes of adjusting it, he was rewarded with a signal from KPH, a land station in San Francisco that was used to communicate with sea going vessels. In his interview with Hewlett-Packardís Measure magazine, he said that after hearing the signal, "I was hooked!" Following the success with his receiver, Fred Terman was to learn the Morse code, obtained his amateur radio license, and build a transmitter. This early introduction to radio and electricity was to be the foundation for Fred Terman's long career in radio and electronics. (2)(5)

College days at Stanford

In addition to his afore mentioned degree in chemistry, Fred Terman studied under Professor J. Ryan and earned an additional degree in electrical engineering at Stanford in 1922. (5)

Off to MIT to get a Doctorate.

Stanfordís own Electrical Engineering Department chairman told Terman that the biggest and best EE department in the country was at MIT. So in 1922 Terman joined a generation of promising EE graduate students on a pilgrimage to Cambridge. (1)

At MIT, Fred undertook graduate study under Vannevar Bush. Fred earned his Doctorate Degree in electrical engineering in 1924, and having a fascination with all of the exciting events at MIT, Fred was to accept a teaching position there. Terman, in his interview with Measure, remarked that electrical engineering in those days was applied towards power distribution, not electronics. (2)(5)

At MIT Terman found himself in an EE department molded by chairman Dugald Jacksonís conviction that the proper business of engineering was business. Jacksonís success hinged on his having strengthened MITís ties with the electrical industry. This philosophy was to determine Fred's attitude about education throughout the rest of his life. (1) 

Back to Stanford

In the summer of 1924, when visiting his parents at Stanford, Fred developed problems with tuberculosis. As his father Lewis had decided, California was preferable for health problems and Fred was to remain in the Stanford area. While Fred convalesced during the 1925-1926 academic year he held a part time teaching position at Stanford, and even though he was seriously ill, these years were indeed very productive. Fred would get out of bed and teach for a few hours, and upon his return to bed, spend the rest of the day intensely reading any existing radio literature that he could get his hands on! He read a lot about vacuum tubes, oscillators, amplifiers, and other radio subjects and was to discover that all of the engineering theory he had learned at MIT was applicable to Radio. He says "This discovery changed the entire course of my subsequent career. (1)" This period of time was also very productive since Fred would start writing his first book entitled Radio Engineering. The 1926-1927 academic year launched into the world a healthier Fred Terman, and he began to teach full time at Stanford. (1)(5) 

During his first year at Stanford, Fred suggested to the head of the department that he would like to develop an introductory course in Ďradioí, his offer was accepted. Between the spring of 1926, and throughout the following year the course material was created. This landmark event introduced the start of the teaching of Ďelectronicsí at Stanford. (2)

In 1928 Fred Terman married Sibyl Walcutt, a graduate student in psychology. They had three sons Frederick, Terrence, and Lewis between the years of 1929 and 1935. (1)(5)

Although funds were limited for the electronics laboratory between 1926 and 1941, Fred was able to construct a radio and electronics engineering program that provided the world with excellent ideas, people and publications. One of Fred's favorite teaching activities was to take his students on field trips to local radio and electronics companies. A prime example of Fred's constructive influence on his students were Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. (1)(5)

David Packard, then a graduate student in the radio laboratory in the mid-1930's, recalled these tours as the highlight of the course: "Here, for the first time, I saw young entrepreneurs working on new devices in firms which they themselves had established." "One day Professor Terman remarked to me that many of the firms we had visited, and many other firms throughout the country, had been founded by men who had little formal education. He suggested that perhaps someone with a formal engineering education and a little business training might be even more successful." (1)

He was right, of course. Shortly thereafter, Terman helped Packard go into business with another graduate student, William Hewlett, and they formed Hewlett-Packard.

Fred Terman remembers some of those early days: "I first became acquainted with Dave Packard back in the fall of 1933 when he was a senior at Stanford. Dave wanted to enroll in an electronics course I was teaching that was really for graduate students. However I let him in because he had very good grades and had experience as a radio Ďhamí As a result, I also got slightly acquainted with Bill Hewlett during that year, although he didnít take this course until the following year. During this period I learned that they were very good friends, and that they had a dream of someday going into business together, some kind of business that would be electrical and technical; though not necessarily electronics."

"As a ham radio operator, Packard had built radio equipment and it was this background that oriented him toward radio. How Hewlett happened to choose electrical engineering I donít know. His father (then deceased) had been a distinguished professor of internal medicine in the Stanford Medical School; even then Bill had an interest in medical electronics as evidenced by the fact that while a student at Stanford he built a diathermy machine as well as apparatus to record brain waves." (2)

These trips that Fred Terman arranged to various companies included TV pioneer Philo Farnsworthís lab in San Francisco. As a result of that and other such visits, Dave and Bill decided that "maybe weíd try and make a run for it ourselves" sometime. (2)

After finishing the graduate work, Dave Packard took a job at General Electric. During this time, Fred acted as a messenger between Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. In 1938, Fred Terman invited Dave to take a leave of absence from G.E. and return to Stanford to participate in the "Wide Grid Tube Project" with Russ Varian and Charles Litton. 

In 1939 Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started Hewlett-Packard in the garage at 367 Addison in Palo Alto, California. Their first product was a resistance-capacitance audio oscillator called the 200A. This revolutionary product was based on subject matter on inverse feedback that was covered during Bill Hewlett's graduate studies with Fred Terman. Through Fred's coaching and help, this first product was to be the first step in Hewlett-Packard developing into a $10 billion-a-year enterprise. (1)

For further information on the history of Hewlett-Packard and Fred Terman's involvement, see "Hewlett-Packard - The Early Years" in this issue.

During 1937, Fred Terman became a full professor and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering. Five of his 7 books had been published, and won the acclaim of thousands of engineers and future engineers. In time, more than 600,000 copies would be published in 9 different languages. According to Terman, his books "reflect his interest in the systematic organization of knowledge, and his desire to find simple quantitative ways to treat each topic. (5).

America enters the war.

In 1941, during the outbreak of World War II, Fred Terman, at the invitation of Vannevar Bush, left Stanford to direct the Harvard Radio Research Laboratory (RRL). The Harvard Radio Laboratory was a spin-off of MITís famous Radiation Laboratory. This lab was located up river at Harvard University, and devoted to radar countermeasures. As director, Terman had responsibility not only for developing new radar jamming and countermeasures devices, but for teaching industrial contractors like RCA, GE, and Western Electric how to manufacture them. To smooth the bumpy road from laboratory to the field. Fred invited corporate engineers to work with his design teams at the production plants. This experience convinced him that the partnership of universities, industry, and government that was helping to win the war, also would be applicable to the postwar world. (1)(5)

The Laboratory, with a staff of 850 employees developed America's leadership in electronics countermeasures during World War II. Radio transmitters, also known as jammers were developed, along with receivers that would allow the American countermeasures operators to analyze incoming radio and radar signals so that they would know where the signals originated from, and what method was to be used to jam them. A most innovative method of Radar jamming was developed using strips of metal called 'chaff'. When dropped from airplanes, this chaff produced a messy Radar display which prevented the Radar operator from discerning the exact location of the target in question. An interesting side effect of chaff was the damage it caused the German's food supply. When cattle ate the metal strips that would fall to the ground in the pastures in Germany, the cow with it's odd digestive system would die after ingesting too much chaff! (McMahon, Vintage Electrics Volume #3)(5)

The Harvard Radio Research Laboratory was credited with saving thousands of American planes, ships, and most importantly lives during World War II. It was indeed a job well done. Fred Terman was decorated by the American government receiving the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1948. The British government presented him with an award for wartime research in 1946. In addition to the government awards Fred received, he was awarded an honorary Sc.D. Degree from Harvard University. (5)

Back to Stanford again!

Terman returned to Stanford as Dean of Engineering in 1946. With Harvard Radio Laboratoriesí core of electronics veterans and a vision of a strong and independent West Coast electronics industry, they would draw on the intellectual resources of science and technology he would develop at Stanford. He believed that the first step toward invigorating the industry was to strengthen the Universityís programs in selected areas of electronics. (5)

The contacts that Fred Terman had made during his days at the Harvard Radio Laboratory were useful in obtaining federal contracts for Stanford engineers. During the years of 1945 to 1947, many research projects were initiated in the fields of electronics, physics, and chemistry. The new influx of contracts came from the newly established Office of Naval Research, and with the approval of Stanford's president Donald B. Tresidder, the programs were launched opening a new era for Stanford. (5)

Fred Terman developed administrative guidelines that stated that the sponsored research should benefit rather than compete with the educational mission of the university. All research projects were to be built around the specific interests of individual facility members, who would obtain the projects rather than administrators. The actual research was then to be carried out by a combination of students and facility members. These established conditions have continued, and the result has been the mutual benefit to industry and the school. (5) 

Traveling Wave Tubes in Northern California.

The traveling-wave tube, a miracle of the electronics age, was a fantastic broadband microwave amplifier. The (TWT) was invented by Rudolf Kompfer in Oxford England. John Pierce, of Bell Laboratories, who had been following Rudolf's work in CVD reports, was to meet him in November 1944 at the Microwave Tube Research Group at Oxford. During the war, John Pierce was to undertake further development work on the Traveling Wave Tube assisted by Stanford graduate Lester Field, who had previously been involved in magnetron research. These years of refinement were to make the TWT a practical device, and further refinements of this device resulted in its use in the 1960's for Bell Laboratory's Telstar Satellite, which would provide the first transatlantic television broadcast. After the war, Kompfer joined John Pierce at Bell Laboratories on December 27, 1951. 

The traveling-wave tube (TWT) program exemplified the new style of Stanford electronics. Fred Terman lured Lester Field back to Stanford in 1947. Even though the Stanford effort was supported on a shoestring compared with industrial efforts at Bell Labs, Field quickly established his expertise in this progressive field of post-war electronics. He developed new kinds of TWTís, increasing their power, and reduced their objectionably high noise level. He also earned distinction, in the words of Fred Terman, as "the best teacher in the department on either undergraduate or advanced levels." In the years to come, Lester Field attracted some of the best and brightest of Stanfordís graduate students, including Hubert Heffner, Stanley Kaisel, and Dean Watkins. (1)(8)

In 1948 Fred Terman received the Presidential Medal of Merit for his work at the Harvard Radio Laboratories.

Fred Terman mid-1940's to mid-1950's, taken in Stanford's Radio Engineering Laboratory. Photo: Courtesy, Hewlett-Packard's Measure magazine - December, 1973

Into the 1950's

By 1950, Termanís campaign had made Stanford one of the top academic centers of electronics in the country. With a far smaller faculty, Stanford had virtually pulled even with MIT in the number of electrical engineering doctorates awarded each year and had became the leader in microwave tube design. (1)

In 1950, Fred Terman was to receive the Medal of Honor from the Institute of Radio Engineers. (5)

Though the applied program at Stanford did not as a rule, develop devices beyond the prototype stage, part of its understanding with its sponsors was that it would work closely with industrial firms that did production work. The Stanford administrators encouraged faculty consulting, brought corporate engineers to campus, and arranged an annual technical review for the contractors who were actually building the reconnaissance, countermeasures, and radar tubes based on Stanford designs. (1)

Fred Terman had many ideas that made the Stanford Engineering program into what it is today. He believed that buildings with lots of expensive equipment were useless without the qualified facility to fill it with. He compared this well thought out strategy to a track team when he said, "It's better to have one seven foot jumper on your team than any number of six foot jumpers." This principle he named "Steeples of Excellence." These steeples were small groups of experts who were leaders in their professions, and would over the years attract not only grant money, but the finest students from around the world. (5)

BIG BUSINESS - Stanford Business Park - 1951

But it took the Korean War in the early 1950's to transform this academic empire into big business. In light of the national emergency, the military services reviewed their university contracts and decided to complement selected programs with applied (and classified) contracts. Stanford, already high on the list for its contributions to TWT and high-power klystron studies, received $300,000 (subsequently increased to $450,000) a year for translating its basic research into practical devices and systems. (1)

The success of the electronics industry that Fred Terman helped to spawn in the West, and particularly the Stanford Industrial Park, was evident in 1952 when former students Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett donated a substantial new wing to Stanford's Electronics Research Laboratory. (From left to right: Bill Hewlett, unidentified person, Fred Terman) Photo: Courtesy, Hewlett-Packard's Measure magazine - December, 1973.

Electronics Measurements authored by Fred Terman and Joseph Pettit was released in 1952.

In 1953 Fred Terman was elected to the Engineering Section of the National Academy of Sciences.

In seeking to further capitalize on Stanford expertise, General Electric and Sylvania, as well as others, set up microwave tube divisions near campus and often hired Stanford faculty and graduates to staff them. Several of Fieldís former students became heads of these divisions, while others, including Watkins and Kaisel, went into business for themselves. By 1960 a third of the nationís $40 million-a-year TWT business (virtually all of it for defense) was located a stoneís throw from campus. "Obviously," noted Terman, "this is not a coincidence." (1)

In 1954, to encourage formal collaboration between the university and the high-tech enterprise, Terman created the honors cooperative program which gave local electronics companies an opportunity to send some of their brightest young engineers back to school for advanced degrees. In just three years the programís enrollment soared from 16 to 243, representing more than a third of Stanfordís entire graduate engineering enrollment. Terman also enthusiastically supported development of the Stanford Industrial Park, the earliest and perhaps most successful effort to foster academic-industrial cooperation by developing a high-technology park on University land. Varian Associates, already a tenant, who had began life with a $100 stake from Stanford in the pre-war years, concentrated on microwave tubes for defense applications, was quickly followed by Hewlett-Packard, GE, Watkins-Johnson, and many others. (1)(6)(7)

Overnight, Stanford doubled the size of it's electronics program. With faculty and graduate students moving back and forth between the basic and applied programs the definition between these two types of programs became non-existent and Fred Terman eventually merged them by forming the Stanford Electronics Laboratories (SEL) in 1955. (1)

Fred Terman was appointed Provost of Stanford University in 1955, an office he held until 1965, by the president J.E. Sterling. Fred was to take on broad administrative responsibility for the University's academic program. President Sterling, a historian and Fred Terman an engineer, possessed diverse academic backgrounds and personalities, but were to share similar educational and administrative philosophies. They both placed the highest priority on hiring and retaining the finest facility that could be acquired. The result of the activities of the Sterling-Terman administration ranging from 1955 to 1965, was that Stanford experienced unprecedented growth in national academic prominence and prestige. (5) 

Photo of Fred Terman believed to be from the 1950's.

Stanford and the semiconductor age.

It was not until 1955 that semiconductors became a major sector in what was to become the Silicon Valley area. The start of the solid state era is attributed to Fred Terman, who wrote a letter to transistor inventor William Shockley at Bell Laboratories to invite him to participate in "independent research and development activity in transistors" near Stanford. In this letter, Terman told Shockley about the University's objectives and of all the benefits of being located nearby. William Shockley, who would share the Nobel Prize in 1956 for the invention of the transistor, recruited Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Jean Hoerni, and others to set up Shockley Semiconductor in Palo Alto. In 1957 eight of Shockley's recruits left to form Fairchild Semiconductor, and thus began the what is often referred to in the corporate world as 'spin-off' companies. The disintegration of Shockley's staff was a result of the heat of his management style but the positive side of this situation was to give birth to over 50 new companies by the year 1980. (1)(5)

James M. Early, a noted consultant, who in earlier days was responsible for improvements in transistor technology at Bell Laboratories and later research work on CCD technology at Fairchild Semiconductor tells us:

"You asked that I send you some of my comments of last evening on the role of universities in the semiconductor revolution, particularly the interactions with respect to the microchip and Silicon Valley."

"First, universities were slow to generate courses and books. The first books came from industry (Shockley, Shive, et al.). The MIT semiconductor series was welcomed when it appeared - around 1965. Individual faculty members at various schools had, of course, written books, but even these were slow to appear."

"Bell Laboratories had, by comparison, decided in 1950 or 1951 that it would start no new systems based on receiving type vacuum tubes Microwave tubes, even for low power service, would remain essential for decades to come."

"Of the universities getting good starts in semiconductors in the 1950's, Stanford and Berkeley were leaders. Stanford brought in several top people from industry, from other schools, and even from government. Gerald L. Pearson and John L. Moll from Bell Labs, James B. Angell from Philco, James D. Meindl from the Fort Monmouth Signal Corps Laboratory. Berkeley brought in top people as well, but the names do not come as readily to mind."

"At Stanford, these people, well-supported by the University and by industrial contributions, established not only a semiconductor centered curriculum, but both graduate experimental laboratories and undergraduate 'hands-on 'teaching laboratories which used and expanded on the entire range of processes necessary in the fabrication of devices. Substantial circuit work and experimentation was also done. Stanford had the best university semiconductor program, theoretical and practical, at any university in the world."

"At Berkeley, the emphasis on circuit simulation and design was much stronger than that on processing. My perception was that Donald 0. Pederson was the key individual in getting Berkeley into first place in simulation (SPICE) and, in consequence, circuit design."

As the years have passed, the two programs have come closer together, with Stanford creating its 'Center for Integrated Systems' and Berkeley establishing, with major industrial contributions, a really first-rate process capability. I think Les Hogan was chairman of the Berkeley drive, a typically generous and successful action for him.

"The presence of so many former Bell Labs colleagues at Stanford was probably another factor involved in the choice of the Bay Area by Bill Shockley for Beckmannís semiconductor venture. That choice also put Fairchild Semiconductor here." (9)

Prior to the solid state age reaching this geographical area, many areas including microwave tube technology had dominated the electronics industry around Stanford. Few of those firms made the transition to solid state successfully, but their experiences had demonstrated a prototype for the successful integration of academic, corporate, and government R&D. (1)(6)

In the mid-to-late 1950's, John Linvill, under the direction of Fred Terman, followed the earlier example of microwave electronics and built Stanfordís solid state electronics program. An MIT graduate and former employee of Bell Labs, Linvill recruited his early staff members from established electronics companies and had a tie with Shockley Semiconductor, so that Stanford faculty and students could learn the latest techniques first-hand. (1)

Borrowing from his MIT experience, Linvill also initiated an industrial liaison program for solid state electronics. In return for pledging $5,000 a year for five years, industrial affiliates got a sneak peek at Stanford research and graduate students through the technical and quarterly reports, guest lectures and seminars at the company, and an annual two-day review. This program helped Stanford, the companies, and the graduates. Those graduates, have been Stanfordís most important product and a major contributor to the subsequent success of Silicon Valley. (1)

James M. Early interviewed John Linvill over the telephone on 10/2/91. The following information from his letter helps us understand the events of this period.

John qualified his remarks as being "his best recollection" but seemed fairly confident that they were on the whole accurate.

He indicated that his perception was that the Varian brothers had focussed very strongly on meeting World War II needs for klystrons, etc., emphasizing the meeting of critical needs, with little attention given to the building of a solid, permanent, profit-oriented business. By contrast, Hewlett and Packard were conscious from an early point of the need to build an organization, to motivate its people, and to guide their activities managerially as well as technically. John cites this as background.

With respect to Shockley, John said that, in building his initial team for the Beckmann-funded start-up, Shockley asked the late Bob (R. L.) Wallace and Morgan Sparks to join him. In their evaluation of his offers, they came to the Bay Area and visited Stanford. John had worked for Wallace at Bell Labs and hosted them at Stanford. Linvill, an associate professor at the time, informed Terman. This led to a meeting of Terman and Shockley. Linvill has no doubt that Termanís positive attitude was important in Shockleyís choice of the San Francisco Bay area rather than the Los Angeles region.

He also mentioned that he had suggested that Jim Gibbons, now provost of Stanford, should join Shockley Semiconductor on a half-time basis after he finished a post-doctoral year in England. John also mentioned that Jim did join, and stayed with them until the break-up when the eight left to form Fairchild Semiconductor. Jim was not a partisan in the breakup and is probably the best-informed neutral observer of the chain of events.

John asked if I knew that the first single-crystal silicon grown in the Bay Area was at H-P. He explained that Barney Oliver was the instigator and Horace Overracker did the work. (10)

More responsibilities

Fred Terman, in 1957, was elected Chairman of the Naval Research Advisory Committee. This Committee was the senior scientific advisory group of the United States Navy, and was established in 1946. It consisted of 15 members, and Terman was appointed to a three year term in 1956 by the secretary of the Navy. (Stanford University. News Release.)

Starting in 1959 thru 1965, Fred Terman was Vice-President of Stanford. Fred Terman also held the office of acting President of Stanford from February to August of 1964.

Fred Terman retires

In 1965 Fred Terman Became professor emeritus on August 31. Engineering building 500 became named the Frederick Emmons Terman Laboratory. He was also to receive the 'Distinguished Citizens' from Palo Alto California. In 1965 Fred Terman participated in the U.S. Office of Education's tour of the U.S.S.R.. Fred was one of the three person team that studied scientific and engineering education in Russia.

The Stanford Alumni Association's Herbert Hoover Medal Distinguished Service, was awarded to Fred Terman in 1970.

Brought together at a Board of Directors meeting during the 1970's (from left to right) were Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard, and Fred Terman. Professor Terman is a Director Emeritus of Hewlett-Packard, and had a profound personal and professional influence on its founders as well as on the teaching and development of electronics in the Bay Area. Photo: courtesy, Hewlett-Packard Measure magazine - December, 1973. 

In 1973 Fred Terman was elected President of the Society of Sigma Xi.

Sibyl Terman passed away on July 23, 1975. In this year Fred Terman was to receive Korea's Order of Civil Merit Medal by the Korean President Chung-hee Park.

In 1976, Gerald Ford awarded the National Medal of Science to Fred Terman.

In 1977 Fred Terman donated his campus home to the University to establish the educational research fund in honor of his late wife Sibyl Walcutt Terman. In addition, October 6, 1977 was the date of dedication of the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Center at Stanford.

1978 Fred Terman was the recipient of the Stanford Associates Uncommon Man Award

1982 The passing on of a giant.

December 19, 1982 Fred Terman passed away during the night from cardiac arrest.

A student pays tribute to his Mentor

Remarks by Mr. David Packard at Memorial Services for Dr. Frederick E. Terman January 4, 1983 Stanford, California.

I had the good fortune to become acquainted with Fred Terman fifty years ago. In the intervening years I came to know him well and enjoyed his friendship and benefited in many ways and on many occasions from his council, his advice, and his wisdom.

Fred had a profound influence on the world around him in everything he did during his entire professional career which began as a member of the faculty here at Stanford in 1928.

Fred received considerable recognition during the last few years of his life as the Father of Silicon Valley. His contribution to the development of electronics began long before silicon became an active element in the technology and was not limited to the Santa Clara Valley but extended all across the nation, indeed around the world.

He published a book in the early 1930's entitled, "Radio Engineering". This soon became the most widely used text book in the field. By the time Fred was forty years old, virtually every student and every practitioner in electronics had a copy of "Radio Engineering" and probably some of his other books as well.

Fred Terman was a great teacher: he had a unique ability to make a complex technical subject seem simple and understandable. That was, in fact, the great value of his book, "Radio Engineering". It contained little new in electronics technology but it made electronics theory understandable and usable.

Fred believed his students should learn how to make electronic equipment, not just learn the theory. His first laboratory at the old engineering corner was equipped with instruments designed and built by his students. Bill Hewlett built the audio oscillator that became the foundation of our company in Fred Termanís laboratory. When Fred came back from the radio research laboratories at Harvard to build the electronics engineering department at Stanford, he continued his emphasis on doing as well as learning. His students learned how to make travelling wave tubes and backward wave oscillators. When solid state electronics came along, he insisted that his students learn about the processes used in making transistors, not just the theory.

Fred Terman was an engineerís engineer. He loved to really understand the beauty of the technical theory and he loved to see practical things get done.

Early in his life he developed a great interest in the radio industry that began to develop around the Bay Area shortly after he was born. This interest probably came from his involvement in amateur radio while he was growing up here on the Stanford campus. He was greatly intrigued by the entrepreneurship of the individuals involved in building this budding industry. His eyes would twinkle when he recalled how a young Stanford student named Cy Elwell scooped the radio world by acquiring the rights to the Poulsen arc patents shortly after he graduated and then founded the Federal Telegraph Company in Palo Alto in 1905. He would recall that Lee de Forest invented the vacuum tube in a small home laboratory in Palo Alto in 1908. He talked about Ralph Heintz as the pioneer in aircraft radio, of Jensen who invented the dynamic speaker, and Kolster who invented the radio direction finder - all from the Bay Area.

As the broadcasting industry developed in the 1920's, many of the pioneering radio companies moved to the East but others continued to develop and Fred Terman would take his students to visit these enterprising people.

I vividly remember visiting Charlie Litton, John Kaar, Heintz and Kauffman, Eitel-McCullough, and Philo Farnsworth who had a research laboratory in San Francisco and was working on a new television camera. These people in the local young radio enterprises were Fred Termanís friends - they admired him greatly and they knew his students would help develop the competitive advantage of this young industry.

By the beginning of World War II, Fred Terman was well known and highly respected throughout the electronics world. He was called to establish the radio research laboratory at Harvard to develop what has become known as electronics warfare. His laboratory developed techniques and equipment to neutralize enemy radar and counter enemy communication in other ways. The work done under his direction at this laboratory made a very great contribution to the ability of the Allied forces to prevail both in Europe and in the Pacific.

When Fred returned to Stanford after the war, his first goal was to continue his work in developing an outstanding electronics engineering department at Stanford. He brought outstanding men to the faculty and Stanford became one of the leading electronics engineering schools of the world.

But Fred never lost his interest in electronics engineering education that combined theory and practice and he had a continuing intrigue with entrepreneurship. It was no accident then that Silicon Valley grew up from Fred Termanís students.

Fred went on to become the provost of Stanford and he, through his quiet but very persuasive leadership, was responsible more than anyone else for the position of excellence that Stanford now enjoys throughout the university world.

Fred Terman will be missed by all of those people whose lives he touched during his long and productive career. The record of his good work will remain permanently engraved on the cornerstone of the great electronics industry that was such a very important part of his life.

The Terman papers at Stanford - a resource.

A lasting tribute to Frederick Emmons Terman is the collection of his papers at the Stanford Special Collections Department. There are in excess of 200 boxes full of Fred Terman's papers. Henry Lowood's preface to the index to the Terman collection best explains how useful this collection can be to you!

Frederick E. Terman ranks as one of the most successful of American administrators of science, engineering, and higher education in this century, a reputation that has eclipsed his deserved stature as a leading researcher and teacher in the field of radio engineering. Terman figured prominently in the development of electrical engineering as an academic discipline, the mobilization of American science and engineering in support of the war effort between 1942 and 1945, and the rapid growth after the war of an international center of industry based on advances in science and technology that we know today as the "Silicon Valley." It is fitting that the preservation of Terman's personal, scientific and administrative papers should match his other accomplishments as a unique and virtually inexhaustible legacy, this time to historians.

The Terman papers may be approached from a variety of angles, a fact recognized and encouraged by the organization of this guide.

Historians interested in the institutional basis of science and technology in wartime will be drawn to virtually complete records-including scarce or unpublished administrative histories and technical reports- stemming from Terman's role as director of the Radio Research Laboratory. Utilizing documents generated or collected by Terman during his tenure in a succession of offices at Stanford and within the national engineering community, the historian can trace the development of numerous organizations in science and engineering, including the Institute of Radio Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the President's Scientific Advisory Committee, the Institute for Defense Analysis, the Stanford Electronics and Microwave Laboratories, and the School of Engineering at Stanford University.

As a Stanford University administrator, most notably as Provost of the University from 1955 until 1965 and consultant to the President until 1975, Terman formulated a philosophy of faculty selection and research funding based on the notion of "steeples of excellence." Examples of Termanís application of this philosophy abound in his administrative files, preserved in this collection, so that the historian will find here a laboratory in which to examine in unusual detail and intimacy how a broad range of academic disciplines were supported in a particular institutional setting.

Termanís papers are a rich resource regarding the ideas and instruments of science and engineering. His own research, inventions, teaching and consulting activities are well documented. Yet, Termanís contemporaries and proteges best remember him as the man with his finger in every pie and on every pulse; attention to detail, his astonishing memory and drive, and ready access to voluminous and well-managed files struck most Terman watchers as the keystones of his success as a judge of talent and as a recruiter of faculty and students alike. Terman's carefully organized observations and reports on the careers and work of others amount to a running reportage on the progress of research at Stanford and other universities and industrial laboratories; the reports he prepared as scientific advisor to the Television Shares Management Company between 1948 and 1978 provide a particularly noteworthy example of Terman in his role as commentator on the technical achievements of his day.

As voluminous and complete as the Terman papers may be, additional sources are available to Terman biographers and historians wishing to investigate his life and times. Foremost among these is a series of interviews with Terman conducted by Arthur L. Norberg, Charles Suskind and Roger Hahn, transcripts of which are housed at the Stanford University Archives and The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. Collections of the personal, scientific and administrative papers of scientists and engineers associated with Terman and with Stanford university, such as those of Felix Bloch, William W. Hansen, David Locke Webster, Leonard Schiff and J. E. Wallace Sterling, further illuminate many of the events and projects with which Terman was involved. These collections are housed in the Stanford University Archives. The papers of Cyril F. Elwell, housed in the Manuscripts Division of the Department of Special Collections, provide additional background material concerning the early development of the electronics industry in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Henry Lowood, Bibliographer for History of Science and Technology Collections, Stanford University Libraries.


1. From Backwater to Powerhouse by Stuart W. Leslie, Stanford Magazine, March 1990 Courtesy of XXXX at Stanford New release dept.

2. Measure magazine - Hewlett-Packard August September 1973 

3. Introduction to the "Index to the Terman Papers" by Henry Lowood, Frederick E. Terman Papers Collection Guide, Department of Special Collections, Stanford University. 

4. "David Packard's Memorial Speech" - January 4, 1983 - Stanford California, from Hewlett-Packard Company.

5. "Terman Biography" - in the Introduction to the Terman Papers, Frederick E. Terman Papers, Collection Guide Department of Special Collections Stanford University.

6. Henry Lowood's From Steeples of Excellence to Silicon Valley, By Henry Lowood., Stanford University Libraries.

7. "The $100 Idea" by Edward Ginzton Vintage Electrics Volume #3, 1991

8. "My Work With Vacuum Tubes at Bell Laboratories" by John R. Pierce, VINTAGE ELECTRICS Volume #3, 1991.

9. Letter dated 9/27/91 from James M. Early, Consultant, formerly of Bell Laboratories and later Fairchild Semiconductor Co., to Edward A. Sharpe, Archivist, Southwest Museum of Electricity and Communications. 

10. Letter dated 10/2/91 from James M. Early, Consultant, formerly of Bell Laboratories and later Fairchild Semiconductor Co., to Edward A. Sharpe, Archivist, Southwest Museum of Electricity and Communications. 

About Edward A. Sharpe

Edward A. Sharpe is founder and archivist of the Southwest Museum of Electricity and Communications, which is the fruit of his life-long interest in technology and its history. He is presently owner, president, and chief engineer of Computer Exchange, an independent dealer in and services of Hewlett-Packard computer hardware. He is a senior member of IEEE.

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