Frederick Emmons Terman

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Frederick Emmons Terman

Also Known As: "Fred"
Death: December 19, 1982 (81-82)
Immediate Family:

Son of Lewis Madison Terman PhD and Anna Belle Minton Terman
Husband of Sibyl Walcutt Terman
Father of Private; Private and Private
Brother of Helen L. Terman Mosher

Managed by: James William Terman (II)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Frederick Emmons Terman

Frederick Terman

7 June 1900

Died: 19 December 1982

   * 1 Early Life and Education
   * 2 Educational Work at Stanford
   * 3 World War II Contributions
   * 4 Founding the Silicon Valley
   * 5 Affiliations and Awards
   * 6 Personal Life

Early Life and Education

Frederick Emmons Terman was born in English, Indiana, on 7 June 1900 to Lewis M. and Anna Terman. His father, an educational psychologist at Stanford, University, is best known as the co-author of the Stanford-Binet IQ Test and for conducting a long-term study of gifted children. Frederick entered public school at the age of 9, as his father spent time educating his son at home.

In 1910 the family moved to Stanford as a result of his father’s appoint to the Stanford Psychology Department. Educated at Stanford University, Frederick received the B.A. in chemistry in 1920, and the E.E. in 1922. In 1924 he was given the D.Sc. in electrical engineering by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he studied with Vannevar Bush. It was only the 8th Ph.D. awarded at MIT


Educational Work at Stanford:

Terman joined the electrical engineering faculty of Stanford in 1925 as an instructor, and by 1942 had become full professor and executive head of the electrical engineering department. Some of his most notable achievements came as an educator and administrator, though his work as a researcher in radio engineering was also very successful. During this early part of his career at Stanford, he taught David Packard and William Hewlett and encouraged them both in their research and in their desire to found a business together.

In 1932 Terman published the seminal textbook, Radio Engineering. There were four editions of this textbook. It would become the bible for the profession. In 1943 he followed the success of this work with his publication of a handbook for radio engineers.

World War II Contributions:

At the outbreak of World War II, Bush asked Terman to come work in Massachusetts. From 1942 to 1945, he directed the Harvard University Radio Research Laboratory, which was associated with MIT’s Radiation Laboratory. The main work of the laboratory was research and development of radar countermeasures and it had a staff of 800, though it also worked closely with industrial contractors. Terman’s efforts to support war efforts led to his being decorated by the British government and receiving the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1948.

Founding the Silicon Valley:

Returning to Stanford in 1945, he was appointed dean of the school of engineering. After the war, he took steps to unite Stanford’s interests with those of private companies. When Stanford set up some vacant land as an industrial park, he courted technology corporations as tenants, hoping to assist Stanford graduates in finding jobs. Hewlett-Packard, General Electric, and Kodak moved in and made Stanford Research Park one of the most successful such sites in the world. As a result, Terman is viewed as one of the founding fathers of the Silicon Valley.

Terman also continued to actively support research work at the university. While he was there, the Stanford became involved in investigations with traveling wave tubes and emerged as a leader in academic work in electronics. Terman advanced through the ranks at Stanford. For an extended time he was the pivotal figure in the Stanford administration in realigning Stanford's management. He led the efforts to develop funding relationships between Stanford faculty and Government agencies, expecially with branches of the Defense Department. He was an exponent of selecting, funding, and staffing academinc departments' "towers of excellence" i.e. concentrations on subjects and research projects of national eminence and external funding as opposed to having academic departments being broadly balanced in subject matter. His efforts, backed up by the University presidents, deemphasized academic deans and departmental chairs, reduced departmental autonomy, and tied tenure decisions to research productivity and training of PhD candidates. These efforts led Stanford to the top tier of national universities in natural sciences and engineering at the expense of undergraduate education.

Upon his retirement in 1965 his title was Provost and Vice President.

Affiliations and Awards:

A past President of the IRE (1941), Terman was also a member of the AIEE, the American Physical Society, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the National Academy of Sciences. He was one of the 25 founding members of the National Academy of Engineering in 1946. Terman was the author of a number of books and technical papers on radio. 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.”

Terman received honorary doctorates from Harvard, University of British Columbia, and Syracuse University. In 1951 he was elected Eminent Member of Eta Kappa Nu and in 1956 the AIEE awarded him its first Education Medal. In 1963 he made a memorable speech before the IEEE annual banquet entitled " Impossible Except for Electrical Engineers"

Personal Life:

In 1928, Terman married one of his father’s graduate students, Sibyl Walcutt, an expert in reading education. They had three sons, including Lewis, who had a long career as an engineer and researcher for IBM and who served as 2008 IEEE president.

Frederick Terman passed away on 19 December 1982, in Palo Alto, CA.

Frederick Emmons Terman (June 7, 1900 – December 19, 1982) was an American academician. He is widely credited (together with William Shockley) with being the father of Silicon Valley.


Terman completed his undergraduate degree in chemistry and his master's degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University. His father Lewis Terman, the man who popularized the IQ test in America, was a professor at Stanford. Terman went on to earn an ScD in electrical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1924. His advisor at MIT was Vannevar Bush, who first proposed what became the National Science Foundation.

Academic career

He returned to Stanford in 1925 as a member of the engineering faculty. From 1925 to 1941 Terman designed a course of study and research in electronics at Stanford that focused on work with vacuum tubes, circuits, and instrumentation. He also wrote Radio Engineering (first edition in 1932; second edition, much improved, in 1937; third edition in 1947 with added coverage of new technologies developed during World War II; fourth edition in 1955 with a new title, Electronic and Radio Engineering), one of the most important books on electrical and radio engineering, and to this day a good reference on those subjects. Terman's students at Stanford included Oswald Garrison Villard, Jr., William Hewlett and David Packard. He encouraged his students to form their own companies and personally invested in many of them, resulting in firms such as Litton Industries and Hewlett-Packard. Terman was president of the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1941.

During World War II, Terman directed a staff of more than 850 at the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University. This organization was the source of Allied jammers to block enemy radar, tunable receivers to detect radar signals, and aluminum strips (“chaff”) to produce spurious reflections on enemy radar receivers. These countermeasures significantly reduced the effectiveness of radar-directed anti-aircraft fire.

After the war Terman returned to Stanford and was appointed dean of the School of Engineering. In 1951 he spearheaded the creation of Stanford Industrial Park (now Stanford Research Park), whereby the University leased portions of its land to high-tech firms. Companies such as Varian Associates, Hewlett-Packard, Eastman Kodak, General Electric, and Lockheed Corporation moved into Stanford Industrial Park and made the mid-Peninsula area into a hotbed of innovation which eventually became known as Silicon Valley.

He served as Provost at Stanford from 1955 to 1965. During his tenure, Terman greatly expanded the science, statistics and engineering departments in order to win more research grants from the Department of Defense. These grants, in addition to the funds that the patented research generated, helped to catapult Stanford into the ranks of the world's first class educational institutions, as well as spurring the growth of Silicon Valley.

In 1964, Terman became a founding member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 1966 Terman played a central role in helping the Park Chung-hee Administration establish the Korea Advanced Institute of Science, which later became KAIST.


Looking back on his creation in his declining years, Frederick Terman reflected, "When we set out to create a community of technical scholars in Silicon Valley, there wasn't much here and the rest of the world looked awfully big. Now a lot of the rest of the world is here." When once asked whether he wanted his university [Stanford] to be a teaching institution or a research institution, he replied that "it should be a learning institution".


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".

The Frederick Emmons Terman Award was established in 1969 by the American Society for Engineering Education, Electrical and Computer Engineering Division. It is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and is bestowed annually upon an outstanding young electrical engineering educator.

The Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholastic Award is presented to the students that rank academically in the top five percent of the graduating senior class from the Stanford University School of Engineering.

Stanford's Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Center is named in his honor.

Terman Middle School, in Palo Alto, California is named after Terman and his father.

Terman, following his 'Terman Report' for the purpose of helping found what later became KAIST, is the eponym of Terman Hall.

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Frederick Emmons Terman's Timeline

December 19, 1982
Age 82