Stanford Innovators

From its earliest days Stanford has been home to pioneers of innovation. This exhibit traces the history of those innovators, from before the the university until today.

Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge, 1830-1904

Muybridge was commissioned by Senator Leland Stanford to conduct motion studies in an attempt to photograph horses in motion, trying first to answer the question of whether or not all four feet are off the ground during the trot. In 1873, he successfully captured that event in Sacramento, using Leland Stanford's horse Occident as his subject. He made further photographs of Occident in 1877 and then in 1878-1879 he set up a studio at Stanford's Palo Alto Stock Farm and conducted many photographic experiments of horses in motion. Muybridge's work was seminal in the development of motion pictures.

Athletics -- football -- coaches, Walter Camp
Athletics -- football -- coaches -- Glenn S. Warner

Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner, 1871-1954

Head football coach from 1924–1932, Warner was the innovator behind the single-wing formation, a precursor to the modern spread and shotgun formations. He was inducted as a coach into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951. Warner also contributed to a junior football program that became known as Pop Warner Little Scholars, a popular youth American football organization.

Angelo "Hank" Luisetti, 1916-2002

Stanford's Angelo "Hank" Luisetti revolutionizes basketball with the running one-hand jump shot. The press goes wild over Luisetti, who says, "I got credit for the one-handed shot. I'm sure someone else did it before me, but I did it in Madison Square Garden. Anytime you do something in New York, everyone hears about it." Luisetti and his teammates are voted unofficial national champions in 1937 (NCAA playoffs are introduced in 1939). Luisetti is All-American for three years and National Player of the Year for two. On Feb. 22, 1987, a 15-foot statue depicting Luisetti making a one-handed shot is dedicated at Maples Pavilion.

William W. Hansen

William Webster Hansen, 1909-1949

Pioneer in microwave electronics, Hansen had a hand in the development of klystron technology and linear accelerators, and along with the Varian brothers and Edward Ginzton, co-founded Varian Associates (1948)--one of the first high tech companies in Silicon Valley.


Klystron development (circa 1946-1974)

Microwave lecture notes (1925-1948)

Russel Varian, 1898-1959 and Sigurd Varian, 1901-1961

Russell and Sigurd Varian founded one of the earliest high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. The brothers showed an early interest in electricity, and after establishing careers in electronics and aviation they came together to invent the klystron, which became a critical component of radar, telecommunications and other microwave technologies. In 1948 they founded Varian Associates to market the klystron and other inventions; the company became the first to move into Stanford Industrial Park, the birthplace of Silicon Valley.


Ed Ginzton on founding of Varian (1974)

Martin Packard on the Varian brothers (1988)

Irmgard Flügge-Lotz, 1903-1974

Mathematician and engineer, best known for her work on the mathematics of aerodynamics, Flügge-Lotz was the first female engineering professor at Stanford. She played a central role in the development of the aircraft industry, particularly automatic on-off aircraft control systems in jets.

Fred Terman, 1900-1982

Often referred to as the father of Silicon Valley, Terman was influential in the creation of a microwave research laboratory at the Stanford School of Physical Sciences following WW II. 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 moved into Stanford Industrial Park and made the mid-Peninsula area into a hotbed of innovation which eventually became known as Silicon Valley.

Terman served as Provost at Stanford from 1955 to 1965. During his tenure, he 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. Terman's efforts to create a mutual relationship between Stanford and the tech companies in the surrounding area also significantly contributed to this growth.


Fred Terman on history of electronics in Bay Area (1963)

Interview with Bob Byers (1973) [part 1] [part 2]

Fred Terman memorial service (1983)

John Linvill on Fred Terman and Silicon Valley (1984)


Oral History (1971)


Portrait of a Pioneer: Fred Terman (1984)

Felix Bloch, 1905-1983

Professor of physics who, along with Edward Mills Purcell, received the 1952 Nobel Prize for development of new ways and methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements. Bloch, who later was the first Director of CERN, was Stanford's 1st Nobel Prize winner.

Richard Diebenkorn, 1922-1993

Painter whose early work is associated with abstract expressionism and the Bay Area Figurative Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. His later work (best known as the Ocean Park paintings) were instrumental to his achievement of worldwide acclaim.

In 1940, Diebenkorn entered Stanford University, where he met his first two artistic mentors, professor and muralist Victor Arnautoff, who guided Diebenkorn in classical formal discipline with oil paint; and Daniel Mendelowitz, with whom he shared a passion for the work of Edward Hopper.

Esther Lederberg, 1922-2006

Microbiologist and pioneer of bacterial genetics, Lederberg's notable contributions include the discovery of the bacterial virus λ, the transfer of genes between bacteria by specialized transduction, the development of replica plating, and the discovery of the bacterial fertility factor F. These contributions laid the foundation for much of the genetics work done in the latter half of the twentieth century.

John McCarthy, 1927-2011

Computer scientist and cognitive scientist, McCarthy was one of the founders of the discipline of artificial intelligence. He coined the term "artificial intelligence" (AI), developed the Lisp programming language family, significantly influenced the design of the ALGOL programming language, popularized timesharing, and was influential in the early development of AI.

Norman Shumway, 1923-2006

Pioneer of heart surgery, Shumway is widely regarded as the father of heart transplantation. In collaboration with Randall B. Griepp, he was the first doctor to successfully carry out an adult human heart transplant operation in the United States in 1968, after Barnard's 1967 operation in South Africa, which was based upon the work of Shumway and Richard Lower. The early years of the procedure were difficult, with few patients surviving for long. Shumway was the only American surgeon to continue performing the operation after others abandoned it after poor results. In the 1970s he and his team refined the operation, tackling the problems of rejection and the necessity for potentially dangerous drugs to suppress the immune system.


Norman Shumway (1978-79)


Stanford: A Sentimental Journey (1987)

Don Knuth

Called the "father" of the analysis of algorithms, Knuth contributed to the development of the rigorous analysis of the computational complexity of algorithms and systematized formal mathematical techniques for it. In the process he also popularized the asymptotic notation. In addition to fundamental contributions in several branches of theoretical computer science, Knuth is the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system, the related METAFONT font definition language and rendering system, and the Computer Modern family of typefaces. As a writer and scholar, Knuth created the WEB/CWEB computer programming systems designed to encourage and facilitate literate programming, and designed the MIX/MMIX instruction set architectures. In 1968, he published the first volume of The Art of Computer Programming. After producing the third volume of his series in 1976, he expressed such frustration with the nascent state of the then newly developed electronic publishing tools (especially those that provided input to phototypesetters) that he took time out to work on typesetting and created the TeX and METAFONT tools.


Vint Cerf

As an assistant professor at Stanford, Cerf worked with his students and Robert Khan of the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) 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 ARPA. Since then, he has been a leading advocate for the potential of the Internet. In 2004, he was awarded the Turing Award. Since 2005, he has been vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

Bradford Parkinson

Engineer, inventor, and United States Air ForcOral History (2015)

Bill Walsh, 1931-2007

Head coach from 1977-1978 and 1992-1994, Walsh popularized the West Coast offense, leading his Cardinal teams to a 34–24–1 record. Walsh posted a 9–3 record in 1977 with a win in the Sun Bowl, and 8–4 in 1978 with a win in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Walsh was the Pac-8 Conference Coach of the Year in 1977. In 1992, Walsh returned to Stanford, leading the Cardinal to a 10-3 record and a Pacific-10 Conference co-championship. Stanford finished the season with an upset victory over Penn State in the Blockbuster Bowl and a # 9 ranking in the final AP Poll.


Bill Walsh memorial service, 2007-08-09 (part 1)

Bill Walsh memorial service, 2007-08-09 (part 2)

Bill Walsh memorial service, 2007-08-09 (part 3)

Bill Walsh memorial service, 2007-08-09 (part 4)

David Kelley

Founder of IDEO, a worldwide leader in the user-centered design of products, services, and environment and recognized as much for its process and culture as for its work, Kelley has been a professor at Stanford since 1978. Kelley heads Stanford’s, where his mission is to add “design thinking” to Stanford’s existing competence of teaching analytical thinking in an effort to create delightful design experiences and embrace and promote a culture of innovation.


Oral History (2012)

Sandra Day O'Connor

O'Connor (A.B. 1950, LL.B.1952), was the first female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1981–2006) and the first female U.S. State Senate Majority Leader (1973–1975).


Stanford: A Sentimental Journey (1987)

Sally Ride

Sally Ride, 1951-2012

Sally Ride (BS 1973 in Physics and English, MS 1975, PhD 1978 in Physics) joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983. She remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32.


Stanford: A Sentimental Journey (1987)

Sandra Lerner

In 1984, Sandy Lerner (Economics MS'81) and Leonard Bosack (CS MS'81) founded Cisco Systems. Bosack was Director of Computer Facilities for Stanford's Department of Computer Science, and Lerner was Director of Computer Facilities for Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

Cisco was formed to commercialize the technology developed at Stanford in the late 1970's to support the campus-wide network called SUNet (Stanford University Network), and to integrate a multiplicity of local networks into a single integrated whole.

Cisco shipped its first products in March 1986. Today, Cisco is the leading supplier of high-performance, multiprotocol internet-working systems that enable its customers to build large-scale integrated networks of computers. Cisco also manufactures local-area network (LAN) interconnect devices, and multi-protocol computer peripheral equipment.

John Cioffi

Electrical engineer, educator and prolific inventor who has made contributions in telecommunication system theory, specifically in coding theory and information theory, Cioffi is best known as "the father of DSL." Cioffi's pioneering research was instrumental in making digital subscriber line (DSL) technology practical. Hundreds of millions of people now use DSL based on Cioffi's innovations to connect to the Internet.

Paul Kunz

Particle physicist and software developer, Kunz initiated the deployment of the first U.S. web server. After a meeting in September, 1991 with Tim Berners-Lee of CERN, he returned to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) with word of the World Wide Web. By Thursday, December 12, there was an active web server and SLAC website in place thanks to the efforts of Kunz, Louise Addis, and Terry Hung.

Mae Jemison

Jemison (‘77) became first African-American woman to travel in space aboard the Space ShuttleCorps">Peace Corps from 1985 until 1987, when she was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to found a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship organization.

Ellen Ochoa

Engineer, former astronaut, and current Director of the Johnson Space Cente

Jerry Yang and David Filo

While studying at Stanford in 1994, Jerry Yang and David Filo co-created an Internet website called "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web", which consisted of a directory of other websites. As it grew in popularity they renamed it "Yahoo! Inc.". Yahoo! received around 100,000 unique visitors by the fall of 1994. It went public in April 1996 with 49 employees.


Summit in Silicon Valley: Jerry Yang (2002)

Linus Liang, Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Razmig Hovaghimian

Students in the d.School's Extreme Design for Extreme Affordability class, Liang, Chen, Panicker, and Hovaghimian developed in 2007 a low cost infant warmer, designed for a resource constrained area with limited or no electricity. The Embrace Incubator is small and light, making it easy and inexpensive to transport to rural villages. The product uses an innovative wax incorporated in a sleeping bag to regulate a baby’s temperature. It stays warm without electricity, has no moving parts, is portable and is safe and intuitive to use. The entire sleeping bag can be sanitized in boiling water. Compared to the $20,000 price of a traditional incubator, the Embrace incubator only costs $25. The first version of the product launched in 2011, for clinical settings, and is currently being distributed to clinics in South India, where dozens of babies have already been impacted. Partnerships have been formed with several multinational organizations to distribute the product.

Sebastian Thrun

Sebastian Thrun is the CEO of Udacity, a former Google Fellow and VP, and a Research Professor at Stanford University. At Stanford, Sebastian led the Thrun Lab in creating Google Streetview. Then, at Google, Sebastian founded Google X. He leveraged X to launch projects like the self-driving cars, Google Glass, indoor navigation, Google Brain, Project Wing and Project Loon. At Udacity, his vision is to democratize higher education. Udacity stands for "we are audacious, for you, the student". His team created the notion of "nanodegrees" which empower people from all traits and ages to find employment in the tech industry.

Maryam Mirzakhani

Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, recipient of the 2014 Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics, was the first woman in the prize’s 80-year history to earn the distinction.