Vint Cerf helped develop computer-networking technology that led directly to the creation of the modern internet. Cerf earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Stanford, where he joined the computer science and electrical engineering faculty in 1972. As an assistant professor at Stanford, he worked with his students and Robert Kahn of the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which determines how packets of data travel via the Internet. Today, TCP Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is the foundation for all data traffic on the internet, and Cerf and Kahn have been christened “the fathers of the Internet.” Cerf left Stanford in 1976 to work at DARPA. He has been a leading advocate for the potential of the internet. Since 2005, he has been vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google.
Ray Dolby (1933-2013) made his name synonymous with sound. After inventing noise-reduction technology that transformed the music recording industry, he developed innovations in cinema sound that reshaped the experience of going to the movies. Dolby held more than 50 patents during his lifetime. After earning his BS in electrical engineering at Stanford in 1957, he earned his PhD in physics at Cambridge University in 1961. Four years later, he founded Dolby Laboratories in London. His trademark Dolby noise reduction, which removed the hiss from taped recordings, became a hit with recording artists and fans alike. In the 1970s, the company branched out into cinema sound, where its technology greatly improved the quality of film soundtracks. In 1976, Dolby Laboratories moved its world headquarters to San Francisco. Showered with accolades throughout his career, Dolby received scientific and engineering awards, an Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and multiple Emmys from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
William F. Durand
William Durand (1859-1958), one of the most revered engineers in Stanford history, was a pioneer in aeronautics, naval propulsion and engineering research methods. A picket-fence display of his hand-carved wooden propeller designs graces a wall of the Terman Library at the Huang Engineering Center. Durand joined the Stanford faculty as a professor in 1904 and began studying the then-nascent field of aviation. Working with Professor E.P. Lesley, Durand built one of the first wind tunnels and launched a rigorous study of propeller design that helped airplane makers choose the best props for their airframe designs. In the early 1930s, Durand edited the six-volume series “Aerodynamic Theory,” a major reference in the field. Durand served as chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics — a precursor of NASA — and led a program during World War II to advance the development of jet engines.
William “Bill” Hewlett (1913-2001) helped launch the computing giant Hewlett-Packard in 1939 with his friend and fellow Stanford alum David Packard. Their startup in a Palo Alto garage became one of the founding stories of Silicon Valley. Hewlett earned his AB in general engineering and his ENG in electrical engineering at Stanford. Packard’s enthusiasm about electronics, nurtured in Professor Fred Terman’s radio engineering class, propelled Hewlett and Packard into the vanguard of the electronics revolution. Hewlett’s graduate project, the “resistance-capacitance oscillator,” led to the founding of the Hewlett-Packard Company in that celebrated garage. When the Walt Disney Company purchased eight HP oscillators for the movie “Fantasia,” an industry was born. Over the course of that career that saw the rise of “management by walking around,” which came to be called the “HP Way,” Hewlett became one of the most admired figures in American business. His service to Stanford was surpassed only by Leland and Jane Stanford themselves.
Donald Knuth is a towering figure in computer science, widely considered the “father” of the analysis of algorithms, attribute grammars, empirical study of programming languages and literate programming — the notion that computer programs should be readable by and understandable to non-programmer humans as well as machines. Appointed a professor at Stanford in 1968, Knuth stayed until his retirement in 1993. He introduced a variety of new courses into the Stanford curriculum, notably Concrete Mathematics, and has mentored numerous doctoral scholars. His life’s work is The Art of Computer Programming, a proposed seven-volume compilation of his insights on writing computer software. Knuth started his magnus opus in 1963 and has published four of the seven volumes. This singular work has sold over a million copies and has been translated into 10 languages.
Charles Litton (1904-1972) was among the first in a long line of Stanford-educated engineer-entrepreneurs who made Silicon Valley an enduring technology center. In the 1930s, Litton developed metal- and glass-working machinery to mass-produce vacuum tubes, then in high demand in the burgeoning radio industry. Litton earned his bachelor’s and ENG degrees at Stanford. In 1931, he founded Litton Engineering Laboratories not far from Stanford’s campus and went on to become a supplier to fellow Stanford graduates Russell and Sigurd Varian, makers of klystrons for radar applications. Soon, Litton himself began making magnetrons, which were important sources of microwave and radar technology during World War II. In 1953, Litton spun off Litton Industries to Tex Thornton, who turned that company into a major defense conglomerate. Litton kept Litton Engineering Labs, a smaller glass-working machinery and manufacturing company, which is still in business in Grass Valley, California.
David Packard (1912-1996), co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, was a progenitor of the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that came to define Stanford School of Engineering. Packard earned his bachelor’s and ENG degrees at Stanford. Professor Fred Terman, who later became one of the most important deans in School of Engineering history, noticed Packard’s zeal for electronics and encouraged Packard and his friend William Hewlett to start an electronics company. The company they started in 1939 became Hewlett-Packard, one of the pioneering names in the history of technology in general and Silicon Valley in particular. Packard served as president of HP from 1947 to 1964 and then CEO until 1969, leaving to serve as Richard Nixon’s deputy secretary of defense. He returned to HP in 1971 and served as chairman until 1993. A prominent philanthropist, he created a foundation that helped launch the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Fred Terman (1900-1982) was dean of the School of Engineering at Stanford from 1944 to 1958 and university provost from 1955 to 1965. He and President Wally Sterling are credited with putting Stanford among the ranks of the world’s top universities. Terman earned his bachelor’s and engineering degrees at Stanford before leaving for MIT to get his PhD. In 1925, he returned to Stanford to begin a career that would span the next four decades. As dean of the School of Engineering, Terman recognized that two forces — graduate study and government support of basic research — would reshape the workings of universities. The four editions of his Radio Engineering textbook were the electronics bible for more than two decades of students. He also foresaw that the local high-technology industry could provide financial assistance, intellectual support and professional stimulation for faculty and students alike. That helped create a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that sparked the rise of Silicon Valley.