In 1885, Railroad tycoon and politician Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, drew up plans for a co-educational, non-denominational university to be built in Palo Alto, California. They intended the institution to honor their son, Leland Stanford, Jr., who died suddenly the previous year at the age of fifteen, from typhoid fever contracted in Florence, Italy. Leland Stanford, Jr. University opened its doors in 1891. It eventually became one of the leading universities of the American West, and a center of innovative research and development activity. Technologies invented on the Palo Alto campus have driven the growth of Silicon Valley since the 1950s.