After 18 months, I finished my thesis, entitled: “Academic Revolution and Regional Innovation: The Case of Computer Science at Stanford 1957-1970.” Due to the nature of the academic journal market, I can’t immediately post the entire piece - journals often don’t like online postings of articles before they publish them. A part of this paper has been accepted at the Triple Helix Conference at Stanford this July, and three articles will eventually be published from the thesis. I also hope to adapt the thesis into a policy brief on thinking about academic departments and their relationships with local economies.
There remains little consensus in regional studies on the origins of Silicon Valley or other innovation hubs. Different approaches, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the field, have examined the issue from institutional, cultural, and network analysis perspectives. At the same time, historians of science are beginning to construct a more detailed narrative of the development of computer science in the United States, particularly in the divide between academic theory and industrial practice.
This study embraces these two literatures by analyzing the case of Computer Science at Stanford University and its connection to the rise of Silicon Valley. It finds that the dispute between computer science faculty and other basic scientists led to an academic culture in the Computer Science department that encouraged research on theory, while at the same time, limited funding from the university developed a pragmatic culture that encouraged engagement with industry and created valuable knowledge networks that helped to spark the development of Silicon Valley. This study provides the first archival-based research analysis of computer science at Stanford, and will be useful to scholars in history of computing, history of higher education, regional studies as well as scholars in science, technology and society.