Stanford University has released its annual list of engineering heroes, with 2012’s picks including both Yahoo founders, a former U.S. secretary of defense, an earthquake engineering pioneer and the inventor of cryptography.
The seven, chosen from among former faculty and alumni qualified for the honor after having been deemed to have “advanced the course of human, social and economic progress through engineering.”
Indeed, this year’s list has some high flying achievers on it.
John A. Blume, known as the father of earthquake engineering, was recognized for his achievements and breakthroughs in seismic and structural engineering. John McCarthy was a seminal figure in artificial intelligence, even giving the field its name, and proceeding to define its scope for over five decades.
Yahoo founders Jerry Yang and David Filo were Stanford graduate students when they created a web indexing system for the World Wide Web, while James H. Clark, a former Stanford professor, was founder of several well-known companies including Netscape, which popularized the first web browser. He also went on to found Silicon Graphics, which revolutionized the design process for everything from bridges and airplanes to special effects for movies.
Left to right, top to bottom: John A. Blume, James H. Clark, David Filo, Martin Hellman, John McCarthy, William J. Perry, Jerry Yang.
Engineer William J. Perry pushed beyond science to become the U.S.’s secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997 and is said to still be active in issues relating to arms control and national security.
Another big wig engineer on the national security side of things is Martin Hellman, one of the inventors of public key cryptography, the encryption tool that today safeguards trillions of dollars worth of online financial transactions daily. He's also been influential in raising broad awareness about the risk of nuclear war.
Stanford’s tradition of picking engineering greats doesn’t actually go back that far. The practice was originally established in 2010, but it’s still very important to the dean of the School of Engineering, Jim Plummer.
"These heroes have made an indelible mark on Stanford Engineering and provided a tremendous benefit to the world," he said, adding that they exemplified everything that Stanford stood for; “innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, and world-class teaching and research.”
The seven new heroes now join a prestigious group of other engineering legends, including Internet pioneer Vint Cerf; GPS creator Brad Parkinson; Ted Maiman, inventor of the world's first working laser; Hewlett-Packard founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard; Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim; and former Intel chairman and CEO Craig Barrett.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.