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Primer: Fred Terman December 31, 2008

Posted by Will Thomas in EWP Primer.
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Click to go to the National Academy of Sciences biographical memoir of Terman.

Click to go to the National Academy of Sciences' biographical memoir of Terman, whence this photo + signature is lifted.

Frederick Terman (1900-1982) was an electrical engineer and a crucial figure in the development of Stanford University following the Second World War.  Terman grew up near Stanford where his father Lewis Terman (of IQ test fame) was a professor of psychology.  Fred Terman did his undergraduate work at Stanford, and then earned his PhD in electrical engineering at MIT under Vannevar Bush in 1924, before heading back to a position in Stanford’s Department of Electrical Engineering.  There he specialized in cutting edge electronic instrumentation, wrote a key textbook on radio engineering.  He became head of the department in 1937, and successfully lobbied for the creation of an industrial park on university land.

In 1942, following America’s entry into World War II, Terman left Stanford to head the Radio Research Laboratory housed at Harvard University, and thus became well-acquainted with the possibilities of federal patronage for university research constructed through the ad hoc Office of Scientific Research and Development, which was headed by Bush.  Stanford, meanwhile, was largely left out of wartime military-related research, and when Terman returned toward the end of the war and was named dean of the School of Engineering, he was determined not to let further such opportunities slip away.

With the support of the new university president, Donald Tresidder, Terman became a powerful figure in the postwar development of the university.  Fearing that Stanford was falling well behind the academic vanguard—not only (more…)