The history of the Stanford University is inseparable from that of the Silicon Valley. Its researchers contributed to the development of lasers, Internet and many other technologies. Its campus is a common theme in the founding stories of many renowned companies – Fairchild, Lockheed Martin and Google are just some of the big names. On the map of Northern California, the university lies right at the heart of the Valley, tying together the sprawling network of corporations, startups, VC funds and R&D labs.
This story began in the late 19th century, when a local senator Leland Stanford founded the university in memory of his son who fell ill and died a few years earlier. His heart would be soothed if he knew how many lives the Stanford Medical School has eventually saved. Yet, even its founder could have hardly imagined that the university would reach the prominence it has today. In fact, for most of its history, it trailed behind most Ivy League institutions in prestige.
The period after WW2 gave rise to public-private partnerships that enabled a much faster development of advanced technologies. Universities served as a connecting tissue of this new ecosystem. Stanford, in particular, has put in place a strong research faculty and created a state-of-the-art industrial park that hosted promising startups and brought together the brightest minds in the industry. Most departments adopted Entrepreneurship classes, thus equipping the graduates with both the scientific know-how as well as the skills to commercialize it. The rest is history.
Today, up-and-coming technology hubs often look at Stanford for inspiration. And while we should thank the university for the sleek gadgets in our rooms and pockets, its greatest innovation might well be the unique model that fuels thriving technology ecosystems. Fancy tech aside, its campus is simply a beautiful piece of architecture, totally worth exploring on a sunny Californian day.