Lemelson-MIT Program
Who We Are Awards Outreach News
Invention Dimension Search Site Map Contact Us

Press Releases


Hewlett-Packard founders recognized for contributions to invention and innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — California business executives William R. Hewlett and David Packard have been named co-recipients of the first Lifetime Achievement Award by the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program, administered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The announcement was made today by MIT professor and internationally renowned economist, Lester C. Thurow. Founders of The Hewlett-Packard Company (Palo Alto, CA), the international manufacturer of measurement and computation products and systems, Hewlett and Packard will be honored at a ceremony this evening at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC) for their contributions to invention and innovation, which span more than five decades.

Underwritten by independent inventor, Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy, the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program was established in 1994 to recognize the nation's most talented inventors and innovators and to establish positive role models for American youngsters. The program's Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals for career-long accomplishments in invention and innovation.

Thurow, who chairs the Prize Committee, calls Hewlett and Packard, "extraordinary role models for aspiring American inventors. Hewlett and Packard have not only demonstrated astounding creativity and inventiveness in developing new technologies and products over many years, but also applied that creative spirit to Hewlett-Packard Company's management process. The corporate culture they encouraged," adds Thurow, "set the standard for the kind of flexible, humane work environment that fosters both effective teamwork and individual achievement."

Commenting on his Lifetime Achievement Award, Hewlett remarks, "Dave (Packard) and I recognized from the start that invention was the lifeblood of our community. We tried to develop an atmosphere that encourages creativity and innovation — a place where people are enthusiastic about their work, where they are unfettered by bureaucracy, and where their contributions are recognized."

Packard echoes the comments of his college friend and career-long colleague: "The success of our company has been highly dependent on new products," says Packard. "We wanted all of our new products to be important contributions to the progress of technology." The new contributions of the news generation of inventory, says Packard, "... will be important in expanding our technology in the next century. From this will come a better life for all the people in our country — indeed, for all of the people of the world."

William R. Hewlett and David Packard met as undergraduate students at Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA), where both earned bachelor of arts degrees in 1934. After graduation, Packard went to work at General Electric Company (Schenectady, NY), while Hewlett earned his master's degree in electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1936), before returning to Stanford for his degree of Engineer (1939).

In 1938, Packard also returned to Palo Alto, where he undertook a fellowship at Stanford, arranged by the late Frederick Terman, then dean of Stanford's School of Engineering. Terman had a vision of a new technology community in Palo Alto — what is now known as the Silicon Valley — and he encouraged Hewlett and Packard to help found that community.

In 1939, with $538 in capital, the two engineers established their own enterprise in the garage of Packard's Palo Alto home. Their first product, a resistance-capacity audio oscillator, based on Hewlett's graduate work, was purchased by Walt Disney Studios for use in the production of "Fantasia".

top of page

Today, Hewlett-Packard Company is a $25 billion company employing more than 98,200 people at facilities in 16 nations. The company's innovations include: the high-speed frequency counter (1951) used by radio stations to meet FCC requirements for frequency stability the cesium-beam standard instrument, known as the "flying clock" (1964), which sets international time standards; the world's first desktop scientific calculator (1968); the world's first scientific hand-held calculator (1972); the first desktop mainframe computer (1982). In 1984, Hewlett-Packard pioneered inkjet printing technology with the HP Thinkjet printer, followed by the HP LaserJet printer, the most successful product in the company's history. By 1993, Hewlett-Packard had sold more than 10 million LaserJets and more than 20 million printers total.

"Bill Hewlett's and Dave Packard's uncompromising commitment to quality provides a singular example for American industry," says Charles M. Vest, president of MIT. "By identifying specific technological needs and challenging themselves and their employees to develop creative responses to those needs," adds Vest, "Hewlett and Packard were directly responsible for innovations that changed everything from the way we measure time to the way we prepare even the simplest business documents. Perhaps even more important, because many of their innovations made the use of technology more affordable and less cumbersome, they contributed to the rapid dissemination of many technologies that otherwise would have been inaccessible to many consumers."

William R. Hewlett was born May 20, 1913 in Ann Arbor, MI. With the exception of his years as an Army officer during World War II, Hewlett was actively involved in management of Hewlett-Packard Company throughout his career. He served HP as vice president (1947); president (1964-1977); chief executive officer (1969-1978); executive committee chairman (1978-1983); and vice president of the board of directors from 1983 until 1987, when he was named director emeritus.

David Packard was born September 7, 1912, in Pueblo, CO. When his partnership with William R. Hewlett was incorporated as Hewlett-Packard Company in 1947, Packard was named president. He held that post until 1964, when he was elected chairman of the board and chief executive officer. In 1969, Packard left the company to serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense in the first Nixon Administration. In 1971, Packard resumed his position as chairman of the Hewlett-Packard board. He returned in 1993 and was named chairman emeritus.

Throughout his career, Packard was active in civic, business, and philanthropic organizations. He returned to public service in 1985, when he was appointed by then-President Reagan to chair the Blue Ribbon Commission of Defense Management. In California, Packard is especially identified with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a $49 million project of the Packard family. He is also a trustee of the Herbert Hoover Foundation and has held leadership positions in the California Nature Conservancy and the Wolf Trap Foundation (Vienna, VA), an organization devoted to the performing arts.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is part of the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program, which awards an annual, $500,000 prize to a United States citizen or permanent resident (or a qualified team of individuals) who demonstrates excellence in creativity, invention, and/or innovation in medicine and health care; energy and environment; telecommunications and computing; consumer products; durable goods and industrial products.

Today, William Bolander was named the first recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Prize. An engineer with GM Powertrain, Bolander was recognized for the innovations he contributed to the development of the Saturn automobile and to General Motors' Northstar Cadillac.

"These first Lemelson-MIT Prize honorees, Bill Hewlett, David Packard, and Bill Bolander personify the ideals that inspired me to establish the Prize Program," comments Jerome Lemelson. "Together they illustrate how the American spirit of invention can not only stimulate new businesses, but also invigorate mature industries. Perhaps more important, they demonstrate to young people that inventing and innovating can be just as exciting as careers in entertainment and sports — and just as rewarding."

Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Read more about William Hewlett and David Packard.

top of page