Events and symposia will focus on future global challenges
January 7, 2011, CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Today, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will mark its 150th anniversary by launching a major celebration that will showcase its role at the forefront of scientific and technological discovery. The 150-day sesquicentennial will feature a variety of high-level events and symposia (details below) and involve faculty and researchers from MIT and around the globe.
During its 150-year history, MIT researchers have advanced the boundaries of fundamental science, invented hundreds of world-changing technologies, pioneered new industries, and started thousands of companies. The MIT150 celebration will honor these achievements while examining the grand scientific challenges of the 21st century, and will look ahead to what the future holds for cancer research, computation, neuroscience, air and space travel, and other key areas of MIT research.
“The 150th is a call to action,” said MIT President Susan Hockfield, MIT’s 16th president. “We can demonstrate to the nation and the world that progress is possible against the great problems of today and tomorrow – energy, climate, water, poverty and disease – through science and technology deeply informed by wise policy and pursued headlong with the can-do culture of MIT.”
Vannevar Bush’s first differential analyzer: This machine was capable of solving differential equations mechanically – a milestone in the development of modern analytical machines. Photo: Patrick Gillooly
Back Bay beginnings
MIT was founded in Boston’s Back Bay by William Barton Rogers, on April 10, 1861 — two days before the start of the American Civil War. Rogers was a southerner who came north to pursue his dream of a new kind of technical education — one that would make scientific knowledge useful, and help integrate the theoretical with the practical. At the time the word “technology” had only just taken on its modern meaning, and launching an institute devoted to the advancement of technology was considered a bold experiment.
“William Barton Rogers designed MIT as a powerful mechanism for discovery and innovation,” Hockfield said. “By teaching science and engineering as hands-on activities, Rogers helped America design its future as an industrial powerhouse. Through the Institute he created, over the past 150 years the people of MIT have found countless ways to serve the nation and the world.” MIT quickly became a force for national renewal, churning out new industries, pioneering research in fields such as physics, architecture and chemical engineering, and transforming daily practice in factories, railways, mines and shipyards. During and following World War II, MIT again proved itself as an “innovation machine.” The development of radar at MIT helped win the war, while MIT’s Vannevar Bush invented the modern research university, fueled by federal investments in peer-reviewed science and technology that helped produce decades of economic growth.
Engine of innovation
In its 150-year history, MIT researchers have developed countless new technologies, including the guidance systems that got us to the moon; RAM (random-access magnetic-core memory), the silicon-based integrated circuit; and the wireless technology that drives a third of the cell phones on the planet. MIT insights pervade the GPS on our dashboards, the gas engines in our cars, and the batteries that will replace them.
On the medical front, MIT researchers successfully synthesized penicillin, invented the MRI and the stents that help keep heart patients alive, and mapped the molecular defects that enabled the first targeted therapies for cancer.
MIT alumni have founded 25,800 companies that currently provide jobs for 3.3 million people around the world, with $2.2 trillion in annual sales.
Scheduled events and symposia
MIT’s 150th-anniversary celebration runs from Jan. 7 through June 5, and features several events that are open to the public.
The celebration begins with the opening of a major exhibition at the MIT Museum, featuring 150 unique and evocative objects from the Institute’s 150-year history — several of them with a connection to the Boston area. These include the world’s first pocket-sized scientific calculator (1972); a wind-tunnel model that helped determine the cause of the John Hancock Tower’s window failure (1970s); findings from the MIT Coffee Research Lab (1930s); and recordings from an (impromptu) Grateful Dead concert at MIT (1970). For more information see http://museum.mit.edu/150/
Other notable events include:
• Six MIT symposia on key areas of MIT research, including economics and finance; integrative cancer research; women in science and engineering; the age of computation; the exploration of Earth, air, ocean and space; and brains, minds and machines. See http://mit150.mit.edu/symposia
• Festival of Art, Science and Technology (FAST), a semester-long celebration of MIT’s unique contributions to media arts, electronic music, art, design and other related fields. See http://mit150.mit.edu/arts-festival
• The MIT Open House (April 30), offering members of the public the opportunity to wander through MIT labs, centers and educational facilities to see where the daily work of MIT gets done. See http://mit150.mit.edu/events/open-house
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