From a new editorial in the Palo Alto Weekly:
Over the past year a highly motivated group of Palo Alto parents has waged a campaign to rename Jordan and Terman middle schools because their namesakes, David Starr Jordan (the first president of Stanford) and Lewis Terman (a Stanford psychologist and creator of the IQ test), were proponents of eugenics.
To be precise, since 2001 Terman Middle School has been officially named after two Termans: father Lewis Terman, whose scientific research at Stanford led him to believe IQ was significantly hereditary, and his extremely intelligent and accomplished son Fred Terman, Stanford Dean of Engineering and the single most important figure in the rise of Silicon Valley.
The group put enough pressure on Palo Alto school district Superintendent Max McGee and the school board that McGee formed a 13-member committee that was dominated by advocates for changing the school names and whose recommendations, presented in a 61-page report and 15 appendices, surprised no one.
All signs point to the school board voting to approve the renaming at its meeting on Tuesday.
Activists have largely rejected compromise suggestions of dropping Lewis’s name but keeping the school as “Terman” with only the great son now being honored. Apparently, in the view of today’s social justice jihadis, the ideological sins of the father should be inherited for up to seven generations.
The most important family in Silicon Valley history is the Termans. Father Lewis Terman invented the first American IQ test, the Stanford-Binet, in 1916 and used it to conduct one of the most important social science studies of the 20th Century: the Terman’s Termites tracking study of children with IQs of 135 and above. This played a crucial role in shattering negative stereotypes of highly intelligent children. From Wikipedia:
Genetic Studies of Genius revealed that gifted and genius children were in at least as good as average health and had normal personalities. Few of them demonstrated the previously-held negative stereotypes of gifted children. He found that gifted children did not fit the existing stereotypes often associated with them: they were not weak and sickly social misfits, but in fact were generally taller, in better health, better developed physically, and better adapted socially than other children. The children included in his studies were colloquially referred to as “Termites”. The gifted children thrived both socially and academically. In relationships, they were less likely to divorce. Additionally, those in the gifted group were generally successful in their careers: Many received awards recognizing their achievements. Though many of the children reached exceptional heights in adulthood, not all did. Terman explored the causes of obvious talent not being realized, exploring personal obstacles, education, and lack of opportunity as causes.
Terman helped make the culture of the Palo Alto area extremely welcoming to the very bright. Likewise, Stanford University ruthlessly uses standardized cognitive tests to help it reject 19 out of every 20 applicants for undergraduate admission.
Lewis’s son Fred Terman, long time Dean of Engineering at Stanford, pretty much invented Silicon Valley.
From Steve Blank’s Secret History of Silicon Valley:
I read all the popular books about the valley and they all told a variant of the same story; entrepreneurs as heroes building the Semiconductor and Personal Computer companies: Bill Hewlett and David Packard at HP, Bob Taylor and the team at Xerox PARC, Steve Jobs and Wozniak at Apple, Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce at Intel, etc. These were inspiring stories, but I realized that, no surprise, the popular press were writing books that had mass appeal. They were all fun reads about plucky entrepreneurs who start from nothing and against all odds, build a successful company.
But no one was writing about where the entrepreneurial culture had come from. Where were the books explaining why were all these chip and computer companies started here? Why not elsewhere in the country or the world? With the exception of one great book, no one was writing about our regional advantage. Was it because entrepreneurs keep moving forward and rarely look back? I needed to dig deeper.
The Facts: Vacuum Tube Valley – Our 100th Anniversary
To my surprise, I discovered that yes, Silicon Valley did start in a garage in Palo Alto, but it didn’t start in the Hewlett Packard garage. The first electronics company in Silicon Valley was Federal Telegraph, a tube company started in 1909 in Palo Alto as Poulsen Wireless. (This October is the 100th anniversary of Silicon Valley, unnoticed and unmentioned by anyone.) By 1912, Lee Deforest working at Federal Telegraph would invent the Triode, (a tube amplifier) and would go on to become the Steve Jobs of his day – visionary, charismatic and controversial.
* Federal Telegraph and Lee Deforest in Palo Alto are the first major events in what would become Silicon Valley. We need to reset our Silicon Valley birthday calendars to here.
By 1937, when Bill Hewlett and David Packard left Stanford to start HP, the agricultural fields outside of Stanford had already become “Vacuum Tube Valley.” HP was a supplier of electronic test equipment and joined a small but thriving valley electronics industry with companies like Litton and Eitel and McCollough.
* By the late 1930’s when HP started, a small group (measured in hundreds) of engineers who made radio tubes were building the valleys’ ecosystem for electronics manufacturing, product engineering and technology management. …
Microwave Valley – the 1950’s and ’60’s
There isn’t much written about Silicon Valley during and after World War II. The story of the valley post war, through the 1950’s, is mostly about the growth of the tube companies and the rise of Hewlett Packard. The popular literature has the valley springing to life in the 1960’s with the semiconductor revolution started by Shockley, Fairchild, Signetics, National and Intel, followed by the emergence of the personal computer in the mid 1970’s.
But the more I read, the more I realized that the public history’s of the valley in the 1950’s and ’60’s were incomplete and just plain wrong. The truth was that huge dollars were spent on a large number of companies that never made the press or into the history books. Companies specializing in components and systems that operated in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum sprouted faster than fruit trees in the valley orchards. In ten years, from the early 1950’s to the early 1960’s, the valley went through a hiring frenzy as jobs in microwave companies went from 700 to 7,000.
This wave of 1950’s/’60’s startups (Watkins-Johnson, Varian, Huggins Labs, MEC, Stewart Engineering, etc.) were making dizzying array of new microwave components; power grid tubes, klystrons, magnetrons, backward wave oscillators, traveling wave tubes (TWT’s), cross-field amplifiers, gyrotrons, and on, on… And literally across the valley, these microwave devices were being built into complete systems for the U.S. military by other new startups; Sylvania Electronics Defense Laboratory, Granger Associates, Philco, Dalmo Victor, ESL and Argosystems. In the 1950’s and ’60’s more money was pouring into these companies than on the fledgling chip and computer companies.
* The 10x expansion in the number of engineers in the valley in the 1950’s came from the military and microwaves – before the semiconductor boom. And these microwave engineers were working at startups – not large companies. You never heard of them because their work was secret.
When I read the funny names of these microwaves devices… Backward wave oscillators, TWT’s, Magnetrons…long silent memories came back. These components were the heart of the electronic warfare equipment I have worked on; including fighters in Thailand and on B-52 bombers. After 20 years, the story started coming home for me.
The Revolution Wasn’t Televised
What the heck happened here to create this burst of innovation? What created this microwave startup culture in the 1950’s? And since there was no Venture Capital in the 1950’s/’60’s where was the money coming from? This startup boom seemed to come out of nowhere. Why was it occurring here? And why on earth the sudden military interest in microwaves?
Part of the answer was that these companies and the military had forged some type of relationship. And it appeared that Stanford University’s engineering department was in middle of all this. The formation of the military/industrial/university relationships during the Cold War and the relationship between Stanford and the intelligence community in particular, went on untold and out of sight.
While nothing I read described the specific products being worked on, or what specifically was Stanford’s contribution, there were some really tantalizing pointers to who the real customers were (hint, it wasn’t just the “military,”) or why was this work was being done at Stanford.
No one knew that it all pointed to just one guy at the center of it all – Fred Terman of Stanford University.