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MIT and Regional Interest

MIT and Regional Interest

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A History of American Engineering Education for Women

Engineering education in the United States was long regarded as masculine territory. For decades, women who studied or worked in engineering were popularly perceived as oddities, outcasts, unfeminine (or inappropriately feminine in a male world). In Girls Coming to Tech!, Amy Bix tells the story of how women gained entrance to the traditionally male field of engineering in American higher education.

As Bix explains, a few women breached the gender-reinforced boundaries of engineering education before World War II. During World War II, government, employers, and colleges actively recruited women to train as engineering aides, channeling them directly into defense work. These wartime training programs set the stage for more engineering schools to open their doors to women. Bix offers three detailed case studies of postwar engineering coeducation. Georgia Tech admitted women in 1952 to avoid a court case, over objections by traditionalists. In 1968, Caltech male students argued that nerds needed a civilizing female presence. At MIT, which had admitted women since the 1870s but treated them as a minor afterthought, feminist-era activists pushed the school to welcome more women and take their talent seriously.

In the 1950s, women made up less than one percent of students in American engineering programs; in 2010 and 2011, women earned 18.4% of bachelor’s degrees, 22.6% of master’s degrees, and 21.8% of doctorates in engineering. Bix’s account shows why these gains were hard won.

A Landscape History of New England takes a view of New England’s landscapes that goes beyond picture postcard-ready vistas of white-steepled churches, open pastures, and tree-covered mountains. Its chapters describe, for example, the Native American presence in the Maine Woods; offer a history of agriculture told through stone walls, woodlands, and farm buildings; report on the fragile ecology of tourist-friendly Cape Cod beaches; and reveal the ethnic stereotypes informing Colonial Revivalism. Taken together, they offer a wide-ranging history of New England’s diverse landscapes, stretching across two centuries.

The book shows that all New England landscapes are the products of human agency as well as nature. The authors trace the roles that work, recreation, historic preservation, conservation, and environmentalism have played in shaping the region, and they highlight the diversity of historical actors who have transformed both its meaning and its physical form. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines--including history, geography, environmental studies, literature, art history, and historic preservation--the book provides fresh perspectives on New England’s many landscapes: forests, mountains, farms, coasts, industrial areas, villages, towns, and cities. Generously illustrated, with many archival photographs, A Landscape History of New England offers readers a solid historical foundation for understanding the great variety of places that make up New England.

MIT’s History Revealed through Its Most Evocative Objects

“[T]hese countless connecting threads, woven into one indissoluble texture, form that ever-enlarging web which is the blended product of the world’s scientific and industrial activity.”

—William Barton Rogers, 1860, Objects and Plan of an Institute of Technology

Inspired by an exhibition of 150 objects created by the MIT Museum to mark MIT’s sesquicentennial, this lavishly illustrated volume is a unique collection of visual and written meditations about the making and meaning of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The story of MIT is more than a simple tale of a founder’s vision. It is greater than the sum of all the stories that have been or are yet to be told by the hundreds of thousands who have a direct personal connection with the Institute. Yet, with the assistance of the collective intelligence of the MIT community, the Museum was able to capture some of those “countless connecting threads”—from a towering module for the first real-time digital computer to the famous Baker House Piano Drop. Part history, part catalog, part souvenir, Countless Connecting Threads invites readers to (re)discover, through some of the Institute’s most evocative objects, the essence of the vast and varied tapestry that is MIT.

Greater Boston's Development from Railroad Suburbs to Smart Growth

Boston’s metropolitan landscape has been two hundred years in the making. From its proto-suburban village centers of 1800 to its far-flung, automobile-centric exurbs of today, Boston has been a national pacesetter for suburbanization. In The Hub’s Metropolis, James O’Connell charts the evolution of Boston’s suburban development.

The city of Boston is compact and consolidated—famously, “the Hub.” Greater Boston, however, stretches over 1,736 square miles and ranks as the world’s sixth largest metropolitan area. Boston suburbs began to develop after 1820, when wealthy city dwellers built country estates that were just a short carriage ride away from their homes in the city. Then, as transportation became more efficient and affordable, the map of the suburbs expanded. The Metropolitan Park Commission’s park-and-parkway system, developed in the 1890s, created a template for suburbanization that represents the country’s first example of regional planning.

O’Connell identifies nine layers of Boston’s suburban development, each of which has left its imprint on the landscape: traditional villages; country retreats; railroad suburbs; streetcar suburbs (the first electric streetcar boulevard, Beacon Street in Brookline, was designed by Frederic Law Olmsted); parkway suburbs, which emphasized public greenspace but also encouraged commuting by automobile; mill towns, with housing for workers; upscale and middle-class suburbs accessible by outer-belt highways like Route 128; exurban, McMansion-dotted sprawl; and smart growth. Still a pacesetter, Greater Boston has pioneered antisprawl initiatives that encourage compact, mixed-use development in existing neighborhoods near railroad and transit stations.

O’Connell reminds us that these nine layers of suburban infrastructure are still woven into the fabric of the metropolis. Each chapter suggests sites to visit, from Waltham country estates to Cambridge triple-deckers.

Moments of Decision
Edited by David Kaiser

How did MIT become MIT? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology marks the 150th anniversary of its founding in 2011. Over the years, MIT has lived by its motto, “Mens et Manus” (“Mind and Hand”), dedicating itself to the pursuit of knowledge and its application to real-world problems. MIT has produced leading scholars in fields ranging from aeronautics to economics, invented entire academic disciplines, and transformed ideas into market-ready devices. This book examines a series of turning points, crucial decisions that helped define MIT. Many of these issues have relevance today: the moral implications of defense contracts, the optimal balance between government funding and private investment, and the right combination of basic science, engineering, and humanistic scholarship in the curriculum.

Chapters describe the educational vison and fund-raising acumen of founder William Barton Rogers (MIT was among the earliest recipients of land grant funding); MIT’s relationship with Harvard--its rival, doppelgänger, and, for a brief moment, degree-conferring partner; the battle between pure science and industrial sponsorship in the early twentieth century; MIT’s rapid expansion during World War II because of defense work and military training courses; the conflict between Cold War gadgetry and the humanities; protests over defense contracts at the height of the Vietnam War; the uproar in the local community over the perceived riskiness of recombinant DNA research; and the measures taken to reverse years of institutionalized discrimination against women scientists.

Essays on MIT and the Role of Research Universities

In his fourteen years as president of MIT, Charles Vest worked continuously to realize his vision of rebuilding America's trust in science and technology. In a time when the federal government dramatically reduced its funding of academic research programs and industry shifted its R&D resources into the short-term product-development process, Vest called for new partnerships with business and government. He called for universities to meet the intellectual challenges posed by the innovation-driven, globally connected needs of industry even as he reaffirmed basic academic values and the continuing need for longer-term scientific inquiry.

In Pursuing the Endless Frontier, Vest addresses these and other issues in a series of essays written during his tenure as president of MIT. He discusses the research university's need to shift to a broader, more international outlook, the value of diversity in the academic community, the greater leadership role for faculty outside the classroom, and the boundless opportunity of new scientific and technological developments even when coupled with financial constraints. In the provocative essay "What We Don't Know," Vest reminds us of what he calls "the most critical point of all," that science is driven by a deep human need to understand nature, to answer the "big questions"—that what we don't know is more important than what we do. In another essay, on the future of MIT, he celebrates MIT's strengths as being extraordinarily well-suited to the needs of an era of unprecedented change in science and technology. In "Disturbing the Educational Universe: Universities in the Digital Age—Dinosaurs or Prometheans," he describes MIT's innovative OpenCourseWare initiative, which builds on the fundamental nature of the Internet as an enabling and liberating technology.

Vest, who is stepping down from MIT's presidency in the fall of 2004, writes with clarity and insight about the issues facing academic institutions in the twenty-first century. His essays in Pursuing the Endless Frontier offer inspiration to educators and researchers seeking the way forward.

The MIT Nobody Knows

When Jay Keyser arrived at MIT in 1977 to head the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, he writes, he "felt like a fish that had been introduced to water for the first time." At MIT, a colleague grabbed him by the lapels to discuss dark matter; Noam Chomsky called him "boss" (double SOB spelled backward?); and engaging in conflict resolution made him feel like "a marriage counselor trying to reconcile a union between a Jehovah’s witness and a vampire." In Mens et Mania, Keyser recounts his academic and administrative adventures during a career of more than thirty years. Keyser describes the administrative side of his MIT life, not only as department head but also as Associate Provost and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. Keyser had to run a department ("budgets were like horoscopes") andn egotiate student grievances—from the legality of showing Deep Throat in a dormitory to the uproar caused by the arrests of students for antiapartheid demonstrations. Keyser also describes a visiting Japanese delegation horrified by the disrepair of the linguistics department offices (Chomsky tells them "Our motto is: Physically shabby. Intellectually first class."); convincing a student not to jump off the roof of the Green Building; and recent attempts to look at MIT through a corporate lens. And he explains the special faculty-student bond at MIT: the faculty sees the students as themselves thirty years earlier. Keyser observes that MIT is hard to get into and even harder to leave, for faculty as well as for students. Writing about retirement, Keyser quotes the song Groucho Marx sang in Animal Crackers as he was leaving a party—"Hello, I must be going." Students famously say "Tech is hell." Keyser says,"It’s been a helluva party." This entertaining and thought-provoking memoir will make readers glad that Keyser hasn’t quite left.

A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT

An MIT "hack" is an ingenious, benign, and anonymous prank or practical joke, often requiring engineering or scientific expertise and often pulled off under cover of darkness—instances of campus mischief sometimes coinciding with April Fool’s Day, final exams, or commencement. (It should not be confused with the sometimes non-benign phenomenon of computer hacking.) Noteworthy MIT hacks over the years include the legendary Harvard–Yale Football Game Hack (when a weather balloon emblazoned “MIT” popped out of the ground near the 50-yard line), the campus police car found perched on the Great Dome, the apparent disappearance of the Institute president’s office, and a faux cathedral (complete with stained glass windows, organ, and wedding ceremony) in a lobby. Hacks are by their nature ephemeral, although they live on in the memory of both perpetrators and spectators. Nightwork, drawing on the MIT Museum’s unique collection of hack-related photographs and other materials, describes and documents the best of MIT’s hacks and hacking culture. This generously illustrated updated edition has added coverage of such recent hacks as the cross-country abduction of rival Caltech’s cannon (a prank requiring months of planning, intricate choreography, and last-minute improvisation), a fire truck on the Dome that marked the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and numerous pokes at the celebrated Frank Gehry-designed Stata Center, and even a working solar-powered Red Line subway car on the Great Dome. Hacks have been said to express the essence of MIT, providing, as alumnus Andre DeHon observes, "an opportunity to demonstrate creativity and know-how in mastering the physical world." What better way to mark the 150th anniversary of MIT’s founding than to commemorate its native ingenuity with this new edition of Nightwork?

Designing a Campus for the Twenty-First Century

In the 1990s, MIT began a billion-dollar building program that transformed its outdated, run-down campus into an architectural showplace. Funded by the high-tech boom of the 1990s and and driven by a pent-up demand for new space, MIT’s ambitious rebuilding produced five major works of architecture: Kevin Roche’s Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall, Frank Gehry’s Stata Center, Charles Correa’s Brain and Cognitive Science Complex, and Fumihiko Maki’s still-unrealized project for the Media Laboratory. In Imagining MIT, William Mitchell (who served as architectural adviser to MIT president Charles Vest) offers a critical, behind-the-scenes view of MIT’s new buildings and the complex processes that produced them. The story is not simply one of commissions, projects, CAD, and hardhats; it is about all the forces that come into play—including money, politics, institutional dynamics, and ideology–when a major university campus is imagined, designed, and built. Lavishly illustrated with architectural photographs, drawings, plans, and models, with color images throughout, Imagining MIT shows both the opportunities and the obstacles facing architectural production and city building at the dawn of a new millennium.

Mitchell challenges and subverts the standard form of architectural narrative—the mythic tale of heroic designers and enlightened patrons who overcome adversity to realize their visions. Instead, he offers a Rashomon-like construction of multiple voices and viewpoints. He sets the scene by recounting the history of MIT campus architecture, from its early synthesis of classicism and pragmatism to the daring mid-twentieth-century modernism of Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen. The descriptions and illustrations of the new projects show not only the evolution of each building, but the relationship of the techniques of architectural representation–themselves evolving, from sketching and building models to three-dimensional computer modeling and rendering—to the conception and development of architectural ideas.

Evolving Cultures at MIT

MIT was founded in 1861 as a polytechnic institute in Boston's Back Bay, overshadowed by its neighbor across the Charles River, Harvard University. Harvard offered a classical education to young men ofAmerica's ruling class; the early MIT trained men (and a few women) from all parts of society as engineers for the nation's burgeoning industries. Over theyears, MIT expanded its mission and ventured into other fields—pure science, social science, the humanities—and established itself in Cambridge as Harvard's enduring rival. In A Widening Sphere, Philip Alexander traces MIT's evolution from polytechnic to major research institution through the lives of its first nine presidents, exploring how the ideas, outlook, approach, and personality of each shaped the school’s intellectual and social cultures. Alexander describes, among otherthings, the political skill and entrepreneurial spirit of founder and first president, William Rogers; institutional growing pains under John Runkle; Francis Walker's campaign to broaden the curriculum, especially in the social sciences, and to recruit first-rate faculty; James Crafts, whose heart lay in research, not administration; Henry Pritchett's thwarted effort to merge with Harvard (after which he decamped to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching); Richard Maclaurin's successful strategy to move the institute to Cambridge, after considering other sites (including a golfclub in Brighton); the brilliant, progressive Ernest Nichols, who succumbed to chronic illness and barely held office; Samuel Stratton's push towards a global perspective; and Karl Compton’s vision for a new kind of Institute—a university polarized around science and technology. Through these interlocking yet independent portraits, Alexander reveals the inner workings of a complex and dynamic community of innovators.

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