Take Me Back to Tech (1976)

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NARRATOR: The history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is rich in both scientific accomplishments and personal achievements. Although it is one of the world's leading technological institutions, it's real greatness lies in the people who are connected with it. The example set by the members of this community have provided a legacy for all to follow.

MIT was incorporated in 1861, and the first class held in February of 1865. For its first 50 years, it occupied a number of buildings in Boston's Back Bay.

In 1916, under the administration of Richard Cockburn Maclaurin, and with the support of loyal alumni, and special gifts from philanthropists, DuPont and George Eastman, the Institute moved to its present site in Cambridge. The Department of Architecture, however, remained at the Boston campus until the building to house it was completed in 1938. The move of the Institute across the Charles River marked the start of 60 years of almost boundless scientific advancement that continues today.

Samuel Stratton was inaugurated as president of MIT in 1923, and served the Institute for the rest of this decade of prosperity for America. The '20s saw many students preparing for jobs in industry. William Lyman Underwood, here preparing to supervise the harvesting of ice for food preservation, founded one of the first industry university liaisons. With Samuel Prescott, he laid the foundation for the modern canning industry. Although studies at Tech were rigorous, the students still found time to enjoy the flavor of the Roaring '20s. Here, members of Phi Beta Epsilon fraternity show off their flappers and flibbers. Later, they make their appearance in the circus parade.

In 1930, MIT inaugurated its next president, Karl Taylor Compton. A physicist, Compton was to lead MIT through almost 20 years of development with particular represents on raising the science curriculum to the same level of excellence as in the engineering departments. The result of this was a study of science for its own sake, not just as a tool for engineers. The basic research done at MIT during the '30s was to lead the way for many important innovations and ideas. Much of this research was a continuation of projects started in the early '20s.

A primary concern to engineers was the improvement of existing methods of harnessing nature for the production of useful power. Aeronautical engineering was becoming more and more important to both the growing aviation industry and the armed forces. Jerome Hunsaker, a co-designer of the first airplane to fly the Atlantic Ocean nonstop in 1919, was a distinguished scholar in this field, and helped to establish the Department of Aeronautics at MIT.

Electrical engineers developed the theories of electrical power transmission. Using these circuits that were considered small at the time, the models of networks covering entire states could be constructed. At this same time, Harold Edgerton was working on his famous strobe light, a lamp that could give off an intense burst of light for a millionth of a second. Here, Doc Edgerton works with Kenneth Germeshausen on a synchronous strobe that can freeze the motion of a rotating object. Now a common tool in many areas of science, the strobe quickly found use in slow motion photography. These are some of the first films made by this technique.

The forerunner of the computer was developed in part by Vannevar Bush, beginning in the mid 1920s. His differential analyzer could solve complex mathematical equations with a series of motors, gears, and pulleys. Today, these belts and drafting tables are replaced by transistors and television screens, and machines a fraction of the size.

MIT acquired its first interdepartmental research facility in the 1920s. This laboratory at Round Hill, Massachusetts, served as the home for many projects in meteorology and electrical engineering for many years. Henry Houghton demonstrates his attempts to find a method for fog dispersal. Notice how the chamber clears after the addition of the chemicals.

Perhaps the most impressive experiment at Round Hill was the huge high voltage generator built by Robert Van de Graaff, a former student of Karl Taylor Compton. This machine was the first device that led to the development of the atom smashers used by scientists today to determine the structure of matter. In order to make repairs, or adjust the machinery, it was necessary to climb inside the massive globes. The static electricity generated by the machine causes Van de Graff's hair to stand on end.

Charles Stark Draper started his career in aeronautical engineering by studying the guidance problems of pilots. Here, Doc Draper climbs into the cockpit of a stunt plane to experience the phenomena of the loop, rollover, and finally, the tailspin. These photographs were taken by Doc Draper over eastern Massachusetts.

While progress was being made in all fields of science at MIT, the student life at Technology continued to provide many extracurricular activities. Sports became increasingly popular at Tech. MIT had championship teams in crew and sailing, among other sports. The crew practiced for miles up and down the Charles River. The MIT dinghy fleet, under the supervision of Jack Wood, often graced the lower basin of the Charles. This was one of the first major collegiate sailing fleets in the country. Today, it continues as a first rate competitor in the sport. Although Tech had discontinued its intercollegiate football team by this time, inter-class competitions abounded. These are the freshmen and sophomores of 1934 in the field day exercises. Track and Field were also popular. Notice the banked wooden track next to the old Barbara Fieldhouse.

MIT had various programs designed to get its students out into the New England country. One of the first was a camp set up for civil engineering students at Gardner Lake in East Machias, Maine. During the course of this camp, founded in 1912, the students would set out in surveying parties to make maps of the area. Care was taken to ensure that a professional job was done. This practical work gave the students the skills necessary for their future engineering careers. All was not work at Camp Machias. There was time for swimming in the lake, and an opportunity for weekend camping and fishing. All this activity made young man hungry, so when the dinner bell rang, watch out! Even though the camp was a requirement for civil engineers, it is obvious that everyone enjoyed the experience.

Another camp was the freshman camp, held prior to the first week of school. Here the freshman class at Tech could spend some time swimming, playing baseball, practicing riflery, and rowing. Of course, there was always the welcome call to dinner.

Activities on campus centered around the Walker Memorial Building. Here students could participate in indoor athletics, music, and drama. A popular activity was the MIT yearbook, Technique. Along with the publication of the book came a unique custom called the Technique Rush. Inside this hut are tokens entitling the bearer to a copy of Technique, signed by the president of the Institute. And at great ceremony, the hut was greased and the anxious contestants let loose. As the competitors get more and more slippery, the action gets wilder. Finally, a few men succeed. The keen competitive spirit of Tech students is shown not only in the classroom, but also in activities such as this. Even as the students are letting off steam and having fun, the desire to come out on top in a very slippery world is evident.

The decade of the '30s ended with the outbreak of war in Europe. Almost all of MIT'S research was shifted to emphasize military developments. The Naval Architecture Department worked at top speed to design ships for the United States Navy. Almost all the ships used by the Navy in the war were designed by MIT men. As the war progressed into the Pacific, the supplies of crude rubber decreased, while the demand for finished rubber products increased. To study this problem, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt formed the Board of Rubber Control, which was headed by president of MIT, Karl Taylor Compton, and statesman, Bernard Baruch. Under their guidance, the technique of synthetic rubber manufacture was developed. Here, Colonel Bradley Dewey oversees the testing of synthetic tires at an army test center.

Perhaps the two most important contributions MIT made to the war effort were the developments in radar and weapons control. In these barracks-like buildings, men and women worked day and night in top secret radiation laboratories. Under Doc Draper and mathematician, Norbert Wiener, whose later work in cybernetics made him internationally famous, researchers developed ways to aim and keep the big artillery guns on target.

In 1945, a Victory In Science Show was held in the Institute's Great Court. The accomplishments made by MIT were displayed at that time. The Show included the firing of blanks at the city of Boston, and the mock rescue of a fighter pilot down on the Charles River.

Following the war, Doctor Compton was made research chairman of the National Defense Establishment under President Truman. James Rhyne Killian, Jr., a member of the class of 1926, became the first alumnus to be inaugurated as president of MIT. The inauguration of President Killian took place during the MIT Mid-Century Convocation on Scientific Progress. Outstanding scientists and statesmen from around the world came to discuss the future of science and humanity. The highlight of the Convocation was a speech by Sir Winston Churchill before a capacity crowd in Boston Garden.

Due to their sponsorship under the GI Bill, soldiers returning from the war provided a boom in enrollment. Pre-fabricated houses, such as this, were erected on the West Campus. One army family had the honor of testing the first MIT solar house under actual living conditions. This house derived almost all of its heat and electricity from the sun.

While MIT's scientific progress in the '50s continued at an ever increasing pace, the life on campus kept abreast of the changing social lifestyles. New dormitories were added to the Institute's housing system. Many of MIT's students lived in the dorms, giving them a chance to explore one type of community living. The spirit of cooperation was essential, and students got along well, most of the time. Each dormitory had apartments for faculty residents, providing a chance for students to meet with the faculty on an informal basis.

The fraternities provided the other main living group at MIT. At that time, over 25 local and national groups were represented at Tech. In a fraternity, men learned that the spirit of cooperation was rewarded by lifelong friendships. By working in a fraternity government, these men are learning valuable leadership skills.

Although MIT had been in a coed institution since 1871, enrollment of women had not significantly increased over the years. During the late '50s, women began to make a place for themselves at the Institute. The Margaret Cheney Room, developed exclusively for women students in 1882, found extensive use. There, women could gather outside class to relax, or exchange news with each other. Other facilities in the Cheney Room were available for the enjoyment and relaxation of the women. Sometimes there was too much relaxation, and studying was postponed. For serious study, the Cheney Room offered desks and other furnishings appropriate to concerted effort.

At that time, living facilities for women were limited to one dormitory across the river in Boston. There, women could live in a sorority-like atmosphere. Studies and a home-like relaxation went hand in hand during the week. On the weekend, there was usually a party, and here Tech men and women could enjoy the social relationships hard to find in the male dominated classroom.

The women's cause at MIT was aided greatly by Katharine Dexter McCormick. As a champion of women's rights and a graduate of the Institute, Katharine McCormick saw that there was a real need for women's housing on the Cambridge campus. With money from the estate of her husband, Stanley McCormick, son of the famous inventor, Cyrus, she provided for a large dormitory facility for women. This increased the number of rooms available to women by six times. The addition of a new tower to McCormick Hall in the late '60s doubled the capacity again. The improvements made to MIT by Katharine Dexter McCormick's bequest have had a great effect on the students at the Institute.

Two other buildings had a profound effect on life at the Institute. The first was the Charles Hayden Memorial Library Building, named for a graduate of the class of 1890, and funded by his foundation. Not only did this building on the Charles River serve as a home for the science and humanities libraries, but it also housed the expanding school of humanities. In addition, the music library was furnished to allow private listening to tapes and records. The music seminar room provided a place for the teaching of the theory and history of music to small groups. A good library is an invaluable asset to any university, and the Charles Hayden Library has proved indispensable to MIT.

The construction of the Kresge Auditorium in the MIT Chapel marked the beginning of a new cultural era at MIT. Housed under Eero Saarinen's unusual design of a tri-cornered dome we're both a large auditorium for lectures, plays, and films, and also a little theater for smaller productions and meetings. Kresge provided a home for the many musical clubs at MIT. The symphony orchestra, the concert band, the jazz bands, and the choral groups, became a part of the continuing tradition of musical excellence.

Part of Sebastian S. Kresge's gift for the construction of the auditorium was set aside for an interdenominational chapel, the first religious building at MIT. Inside this unique structure, students of all faiths were invited to worship. The strength and diversity of religious conviction at MIT illustrates the idea that science and faith are the dominant forces of this century.

Another activity that helped shaped the character of the MIT community at that time was the student publications. In addition to the yearbook, Technique, students regularly published three other papers. The first was the wholly student-produced newspaper, The Tech. Since 1881, the paper has been providing news for the MIT community, while hundreds of students gained leadership and management skills from its publication. The campus humor magazine, Voo Doo, gave everyone a chance to laugh at themselves, and enjoy a satirical look at life at Tech. Finally, there was the Tech Engineering News, a research journal for undergraduates. Most of these students eventually presented articles to professional journals, and their experience with this publication was invaluable.

The end of this decade saw President Killian leaving his post to become a science adviser to President Eisenhower. In his place, Doctor Julius A. Stratton, the Institute's first chancellor, became president of MIT. His administration saw many areas of science and engineering grow to meet the demands of society. Two areas received particular attention at MIT.

First was the space race, with all its international implications. MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics supplied both men and minds for the space program. Several astronauts were MIT graduates, including the lunar explorer, Buzz Aldrin.

The second important area was biological science. With many of the common illnesses of 50 years ago, such as pneumonia, controlled, MIT researchers turned their attention to the still unsolved problems, such as the cure for cancer, and relief of world famine. The blend of health scientist and engineer found himself well suited at MIT. The physician's job was made easier by instruments designed in the Institute's laboratory. The problem of treating infants require special machines to help guide the doctor. The link of the computer to the health care team has proved an asset to modern medicine, as these studies undertaken by MIT and Boston area hospitals show.

In 1966, MIT's 12th President, Howard W. Johnson was inaugurated. This period also saw the student activism of the 1960s reflected at MIT. A self-analysis of the Institute's problems was made, and its educational goals and policies realigned to meet the demands of modern society. Today, MIT continues to set examples for the world. Under its current president, Jerome B. Wiesner MIT has worked to fulfill its role as a total educational institution.

What makes MIT great? The people who comprise it. Not only the famous men and women whom history will certainly remember, but also the rest of the dedicated faculty and students, who perpetuated the drive for excellence in science and engineering.

In 1861, William Barton Rogers and 19 others were charged with the task of creating an institution that would, quote, "Aid the advancement, development, and practical application of science in connection with arts, agriculture, manufacturers, and commerce." It has been the work of many people that has enabled MIT to carry out this challenge.

Noted industrialist, Alfred P. Sloan, once called MIT "the greatest technical institution in the world." This greatness is a legacy that has been ensured by the cooperation of countless individuals in search of knowledge, truth, and understanding. To this end, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is eternally dedicated.