William R Hewlett, Enginner, Died at 87

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William “Bill” Redington Hewlett died on January 12, 2001 at the age of 87, he was an American engineer and the co-founder, with David Packard, of the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP).

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on May 20, 1913, where his father taught at the University of Michigan Medical School. In 1916 the family moved to San Francisco after his father, Albion Walter Hewlett, took a similar position at Stanford Medical School, located at the time in San Francisco.

Hewlett attended undergraduate classes taught by Fred Terman at Stanford and became acquainted with David Packard. Packard and he began discussing forming a company in August 1937, and founded Hewlett-Packard Company as a partnership on January 1, 1939.

A flip of a coin decided the ordering of their names. The company incorporated in 1947 and tendered an initial public offering in 1957. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were very proud of their company culture which came to be known as the HP Way. The HP Way is a corporate culture that claimed to be not only centered on making money but also respecting and nurturing its employees.

Hewlett regarded his employees as the foundation of Hewlett-Packard’s success and worked as comfortably with the most junior members of his engineering staff as he did with the most senior members of his management team.

Hewlett never saw his employees as being mere interchangeable parts, nor as expendable; no, they were his partners, colleagues, and friends, and they counted. His fertile imagination and curiosity about how things worked, from childhood on, earned him the title of “true visionary” as he foresaw new answers to old and intractable problems and solutions to what had been unworkable answers.

This he did in his notably quiet and unassuming way, and for all these reasons he is both remembered and respected by the tens of thousands of people whose lives he touched in the Hewlett-Packard Company for sixty-two years.

He lived modestly for one of his position, preferring to raise his five children in Palo Alto, to center Hewlett-Packard’s corporate interests within the city, and to participate in its civic affairs and in the work of his beloved Stanford.

He drove himself to work and occupied the same office (seemingly with the same furniture) for more than forty years, but, rather than work there, preferred to “walk around” the offices and labs to see what was happening and to engage, question, challenge, and encourage those who were doing the company’s work.

In 1966 Hewlett and his first wife, Flora, established the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which made bequests to numerous environmental, arts, educational, and social causes. In 1983 he was honoured with the National Medal of Science, the highest scientific award in the United States.


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