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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To many science and engineering students, the task of writing may seem irrelevant to their future professional careers. At MIT, however, students discover that writing about their technical work is important not only in solving real-world problems but also in developing their professional identities.