Moments of Decision
224 pp., 7 x 9 in, 40 figures
- Published: September 14, 2012
- Published: August 13, 2010
The evolution of MIT, as seen in a series of crucial decisions over the years.
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.
Becoming MIT successfully charts the expansion of voices in MIT's perpetual self-reckoning.
Technology and Culture
This remarkable volume traces the intellectual, educational, organizational, cultural, and human streams that flowed both naturally and by design to create the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the industrial age came to flower. Its establishment derived not only from the driving visions of men like William Barton Rogers and John D. Runkle, but also from antecedents in European technical education, externalities like the Land Grant Act of 1862, and the conceptual and institutional interplay with Harvard, Rensselaer, and Yale. This book is a treasure for those interested in the history of higher education, those interested in the development of engineering during the industrial age, and those who may wish to contemplate its lessons as our universities navigate the revolutions in biological science and information technology at the start of the 21st century.
Charles Vest, President, MIT
Becoming MIT casts new light on how, through technology, industry, and fundamental science, this institution became the powerhouse it is today. But the book does far more—it unflinchingly looks at direct confrontation with issues of science and war, science and public policy, and gender inequity in the halls of the Institute itself. A remarkable study of an astonishing university.
Peter Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor in History of Science and Physics, Harvard University
Becoming MIT is a gem for anyone interested in American science, technology, history, or higher education. By exploring eight critical moments of institutional decision, this brief but eloquent book chronicles the evolution of MIT and its dynamic, out-of-proportion impact on industry, defense, and higher education. From the machine age to the biotechnology era, the people of MIT have both driven and reflected the challenges and changing nature of American society.
Charles Vest, MIT President Emeritus