Since 2010, Stanford University has annually selected engineering heroes, engineers with some Stanford affiliation who have “advanced the course of human, social, and economic progress through engineering.”
This year’s class of engineering heroes numbers seven. (The first class included HP founders William Hewlett and David Packard.) They are:
—Computer scientist and entrepreneur James H. Clark: While an associate professor, Clark developed the Geometry Engine, a processor optimized for rendering computer graphics, and used that technology to kick off his first startup, Silicon Graphics. He went on to found Netscape with Marc Andreessen. And for years he a lot of time commissioning and sailing extremely high tech yachts, though he's gotten over that interest and this year put the yachts on the market.
—Yahoo Founders David Filo and Jerry Yang. The two hold masters degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford, and jointly founded Yahoo in 1995 to commercialize what had previously been called “Jerry and Dave’s guide to the World Wide Web.”
—Public key cryptography inventor Martin Hellman. Along with Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle, Hellman developed public key cryptography. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford, and served on the faculty for 25 years. While at Stanford he was honored several times for his efforts to overcome ethnic tension at the university. Lately IEEE Fellow Hellman has been concerned about the threat of nuclear weapons.
—AI pioneer John McCarthy. Stanford computer science professor John McCarthy, who died late last year, coined the term “artificial intelligence,” developed the LISP language, and invented computer time-sharing.
—Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry has B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford in mathematics, and is currently a professor emeritus in the school's Department of Management Science and Engineering. He served as U.S. secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997, and undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in the 1970s.
—“Father of Earthquake Engineering John Blume. Blume was a consulting professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and a Stanford alum. His advances in seismic engineering contributed to the design of the Stanford Linear Accelerator and the California State Capitol; he also consulted for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and on 70 nuclear plant projects. Blume died in 2002.
Who are your engineering heroes? (Your choices do not, of course, have to have a Stanford connection.) Tell us in the comments below.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.