A History of Silicon Valley

This biography is an appendix to my book "A History of Silicon Valley"

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(Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi)

Frederick Terman

Frederick Terman (Indiana, 1900) grew up in Palo Alto, the son of a Stanford professor. As a teenager he operated an amateur radio station in 1917. He studied electrical engineering under Harris Ryan and then moved to the MIT in Boston to study under Vannevar Bush. After graduating in 1924, Terman was hired by Ryan at the radio communications laboratory. Within two years the young apprentice had become a visionary on his own, fostering the new science at the border between wireless communications and vacuum-tube electronics. In 1932 he published a milestone reference book titled "Radio Engineering". Terman didn't just perfect the art of radio engineering. He encouraged his students to start businesses. Many of those students were coming from the East Coast. He encouraged them to start businesses in the Bay Area. He viewed the university as an incubator of business plans. In 1938 Terman organized a research team around Russ Varian, with Charles Litton reporting to him and Dave Packard reporting to Litton. In 1939 his students Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto. During World War II in 1942 Terman was assigned by the government to lead the top-secret Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University. Terman was basically in charge of electronic warfare, a new kind of warfare that was fought in labs instead of tanks, ships or planes. At the end of the war in 1946 Terman returned to Stanford University as the dean of the engineering school, and used his connections with the military (notably the recently instituted Office of Naval Research) to found and fund a new Electronics Research Lab (ERL). The Korean War (1950) brought another huge infusion of money from the Office of Naval Research to carry out research in electronics, which Terman used to open an Applied Electronics Laboratory (AEL). In 1951 he conceived the Stanford Industrial Park, where companies could lease space from Stanford for their research laboratories. In 1953 he facilitated a contract by the Army for Sylvania to build a missile detection system that led Sylvania to set up an Electronic Defense Lab (EDL) in Mountain View. In 1955 Stanford merged the Applied Electronics Laboratory and the Electronics Research Laboratory into the Systems Engineering Laboratory under the direction of Fred Terman to focus on electronic warfare. Terman became Stanford's provost in 1955. He decided to invest in the chemistry department, foreseeing the potentiality of biotechnology. In 1956 Terman lured William Shockley from Bell Laboratories to set a laboratory in Palo Alto. It helped that Terman had already recruited several top-notch scientists from Bell Labs, notably John Linvill, who built Stanford's semiconductors program.
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