US engineer, entrepreneur-manager, government adviser, and philanthropist, who co-founded the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) with university friend, William Hewlett, in 1939. It was a long and enduring partnership, which strongly influenced corporate America in terms of its management style. The Californian garage in which it all started (with borrowed capital of $538) was designated a state Historical Landmark in 1989, and was celebrated as the birthplace of the Silicon Valley phenomenon.
HP's first product was an audio oscillator, based on Hewlett's research at Stanford. Later the company's core business was in test and measurement equipment, but it diversified into computers, becoming more widely known when it launched the handheld calculator in 1972 and the HP LaserJet printer in 1984. Like his partner, Packard pioneered a radical, egalitarian style of management (the so-called ‘HP way’), based on openness and respect for the individual; HP was one of the first companies to introduce profit-sharing and employee benefits.
Packard served as deputy defence secretary 1969–71 in the first Nixon administration, and later as an adviser and member of several government commissions, including President Reagan's Blue Ribbon Commission on Defence Management in 1985.
Packard was born in Pueblo, Colorado. He graduated from Stanford University (where he met Hewlett) with a BA in electronics in 1934, and a master's in electrical engineering in 1939. For three years from 1936 he was an engineer with General Electric in New York.
In 1939 Packard and Hewlett launched their partnership, known as the Hewlett-Packard Company in a garage in Palo Alto, close to Stanford. During World War II, Packard ran the company while Hewlett was away serving in the military. Packard became company president in 1947, a post he held until 1964 when he was elected chair of the board. HP always maintained the closest connection with Stanford – it was the second company to move into the Stanford Industrial Park and set up a cooperative programme there which allowed employees to take higher degrees whilst still on full pay. Packard retired from HP in 1993 and served as chair emeritus until his death in 1996.
With his wife, Packard formed the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 1964 to support education, medicine, the arts, and conservation. He was co-founder of the American Electronics Association and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He also held other company directorships (including Boeing and Chevron Corporation), was a trustee of the Herbert Hoover Foundation, and held many honorary degrees.