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Frederick E. Terman, Dean of Engineering.

Frederick E. Terman, Dean of Engineering.

Frederick Emmons Terman Book Collection

The books in the Terman collection were left to the Engineering Library that bears his name by Dr. Terman upon his retirement. For the most part they represent his personal copies of the various editions of his works in English and foreign language editions presented to him by friends, translators or publishers.

Additional material authored by, or written about Dr. Terman can be found in the Stanford Archives and Special Collections. View the list of titles in the collection.

Frederick Emmons Terman (1900-1982) was a brilliant, though modest, electrical engineer, an inspiring educator, and a visionary and successful university executive.

His foresight, support, and astute selection of people and companies put him high on the list of those considered to be founders of “Silicon Valley”. That term was invented by a newspaper reporter three years after he had retired and it was never one he cared for, but his name and fame are now attached to it.

Terman attended Stanford for both his undergraduate degree in chemistry and a master's degree in electrical engineering, before finishing his Ph.D. at MIT in 1924. His adviser at MIT was Vannevar Bush, who began the National Science Foundation.

Upon completing his degree in 1924 he was offered an instructorship at MIT, but before he could begin it, he fell victim to a severe form of tuberculosis, which sent him to bed for a year and very nearly took his life.

After he recovered, Dr. Terman returned to Stanford where he taught electrical engineering. From 1925 to 1941 he designed a course of study and research in electronics that focused on work with vacuum tubes, circuits, and instrumentation. He also wrote one of the most important books on electrical and radio engineering. To this day "Electronic and Radio Engineering" is still considered a good reference on those subjects.

Stanford Historical Photograph Collection (SC1071).
Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives,
Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

Just prior to World War II, Terman suggested dedicating some of the unused land on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto as an industrial park, the first university-owned industrial park in the world. He also encouraged two of his graduate students, William Hewlett and David Packard, to form a company and house it there. Other companies, some founded by other Stanford alumni, moved nearby and by the end of the war the Stanford Industrial Park was thriving.

After a few years spent at Harvard during WWII, where he worked on radar for the defense department, Dr. Terman again returned to Stanford, this time as Dean of the School of Engineering. He was awarded the IRE Medal of Honor in 1950 for "his many contributions to the radio and electronic industry as teacher, author, scientist and administrator".

His time at Stanford extended into 40 years of service as he moved from professor to dean to provost and eventually acting president. Perhaps more than any other individual since the university's start, he left his mark on Stanford University. During his tenure, Dr. Terman greatly expanded the science, statistics and engineering departments in order to win research grants from the Department of Defense.  These grants, in addition to the funds that patented research generated, helped to promote Stanford into the top ranks of the world's first class educational institutions.

In 1964, Dr. Terman became a founding member of the National Academy of Engineering. His distinctions included the Presidential Medal for Merit; the IRE (now IEEE) Founder's Award; and Stanford's highest, the Uncommon Man Award. Many of his students went on to play key roles in the development of technology and industry. The industrial park he envisioned is still one of the biggest and most successful in the world.

Fred Terman died on December 19, 1982, at the age of 82.            

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Curator

Engineering Librarian for Outreach Instruction and Electronic Resources
(650) 723-8877