Born in Cambridge
400 Years of Ideas and Innovators
424 pp., 8 x 9 in, 197 figures
- Published: May 3, 2022
- Publisher: The MIT Press
Anne Bradstreet, W.E.B. Du Bois, gene editing, and Junior Mints: cultural icons, influential ideas, and world-changing innovations from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Cambridge, Massachusetts is a city of “firsts”: the first college in the English colonies, the first two-way long-distance call, the first legal same-sex marriage. In 1632, Anne Bradstreet, living in what is now Harvard Square, wrote one of the first published poems in British North America, and in 1959, Cambridge-based Carter's Ink marketed the first yellow Hi-liter. W.E.B. Du Bois, Julia Child, Yo-Yo Ma, and Noam Chomsky all lived or worked in Cambridge at various points in their lives. Born in Cambridge tells these stories and many others, chronicling cultural icons, influential ideas, and world-changing innovations that all came from one city of modest size across the Charles River from Boston. Nearly 200 illustrations connect stories to Cambridge locations.
Cambridge is famous for being home to MIT and Harvard, and these institutions play a leading role in many of these stories—the development of microwave radar, the invention of napalm, and Robert Lowell's poetry workshop, for example. But many have no academic connection, including Junior Mints, Mount Auburn Cemetery (the first garden cemetery), and the public radio show Car Talk. It's clear that Cambridge has not only a genius for invention but also a genius for reinvention, and authors Karen Weintraub and Michael Kuchta consider larger lessons from Cambridge's success stories—about urbanism, the roots of innovation, and nurturing the next generation of good ideas.
“Ever wonder where so many astonishing innovations and inventions were born? If yes, this marvelously researched and beautifully written book about one little city in America is just for you.”
Barry Bluestone, Stearns Trustee Professor Emeritus, coauthor of The Urban Experience: Economics, Society, and Public Policy
“A fascinating, illuminating, and fun canvas of the key discoveries, inventions, and social movements that exemplify the home of MIT and Harvard—and have shaped or influenced the world over the past 400 years. Historical storytelling at its best.”
Robert Buderi, former editor in chief, Technology Review; author of Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub
“A valuable and engaging book about the process of innovation in one city, Born in Cambridge illustrates how Cambridge became a capital of the global knowledge economy.”
James C. O'Connell, Boston University; author of The Hub's Metropolis: Greater Boston's Development from Railroad Suburbs to Smart Growth
"Authors Karen Weintraub and Michael Kuchta have lived in Cambridge for over 20 years, and on long walks around the city, started noting historical plaques and tallying 'firsts' for the city. The result of their perambulations is the delightful Born in Cambridge: 400 Years of Ideas and Innovations... the book is a celebration of the People's Republic, and the energy, innovation, and creative crackle that's wildly out of proportion with its small size... Weintraub and Kuchta deliver an enormous amount of information, digestibly told, giving insights and new corners of discovery for even the lifelong Cantabrigian. It's an unconventional history for an unconventional city."
The Boston Globe
"Born in Cambridge covers a ton of ground, but part of the book's charm is turning its pages and not knowing what gem of a piece of local history you'll stumble upon next."
The Cambridge Chronicle