Photo of Frederick E. Terman

Frederick E. Terman

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his principal role in creating modern electronics and his ability to document his knowledge so that it could be effectively communicated to his many students who now populate the worlds of industry, academia, and public service.

In the 1930s, Stanford University’s engineering graduates often moved to the East Coast for jobs. This bothered Frederick Terman, a professor in the California-based school’s electrical engineering department.

First, he brought together two former students, William Hewlett and David Packard.

Supported by Terman, the two men started the electronics company Hewlett-Packard in a Palo Alto garage that is hailed today as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

“If the car was in the garage, there was no backlog,” Terman recalled, “but if the car was parked in the driveway, business was good.”

Their first project, the audio oscillator, provided a low cost method of measuring audio frequencies.

The business’ success helped Terman lure other entrepreneurs to the area around Stanford’s campus, developing the community that now hosts tech giants like Facebook and Google.

“I most enjoy helping to build something up, taking an unformulated enterprise and making it into what it could become,” Terman said in his biography.