Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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MIT Campus (2012)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1861, MIT has since played a key role in the development of modern technology and science, ranking it among the top academic institutions in the world.


  • The 1920s and early 1930s marked a period of consolidation within American mathematics in which many established programmes around the country expanded into solid departments. In particular, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) emerged as a major force in American mathematics. Although the department at MIT supported a number of geometers - C. L. E. Moore, F. S. Woods, P. Franklin, Dirk Struik and F. L. Hitchcock - Norbert Wiener, a polymath whose work on generalized harmonic analysis and Tauberian theorems won the Bôcher Prize in 1933, stood out as its leading figure.

"William to His Brother Henry" (March 13, 1846)[edit]

William Barton Rogers, Letter written at the University of Virginia, Life and Letters of William Barton Rogers (1896) Vol. 1, p. 259.
  • Ever since I have known something of the knowledge-seeking spirit, and the intellectual capabilities of the community in and around Boston, I have felt persuaded that of all places in the world it was the one most certain to derive the highest benefits from a Polytechnic Institution. The occupations and interests of the great mass of the people are immediately connected with the applications of physical science, and their quick intelligence has already impressed them with just ideas of the value of scientific teaching in their daily pursuits. Besides this, the high prevailing taste, diffused from the upper to the inferior classes of society, inspires an earnest appetite for richer intellectual food than they can now readily obtain.
  • The true and only practicable object of a polytechnic school is, as I conceive, the teaching, not of the minute details and manipulations of the arts, which can be done only in the workshop, but the inculcation of those scientific principles which form the basis and explanation of them, and along with this, a full and methodical review of all their leading processes and operations in connection with physical laws. When thus instructed in applied science, the mechanician, chemist or manufacturer, clearly comprehending the agencies of the materials and instruments with which he works, is saved from the disasters of blind experiment, guided securely because understandingly in a profitable routine, or directed to the contrivance of new and more efficient combinations.
  • Bearing in mind... how few of the almost countless products of ingenuity, even in these times, are of real and permanent value, and how immense the number of utterly barren inventions, the laboured contrivances of acute but undirected or misguided minds, we cannot but believe that, with a proper training in science, the host of unprofitable inventors living within the last half century would have contributed innumerable really valuable aids to human industry, and have advanced the arts to a stage of far higher improvement than they have yet attained.
  • Among practical pursuits there are perhaps none whose dependence upon the determinations of physical science is more generally recognized than those of the machinist, the engineer and the architect. Yet even in these professions, while all admit that many of the details are but immediate applications of the leading laws of mechanical philosophy, how few have formed a just conception of the variety and extent of the sciences they involve.
  • Instruction... essential as it is to the fullest success in the several pursuits referred to, involves... no insignificant acquaintance with some of the leading branches of mechanical and even geological and chemical science.

A Plan for a Polytechnic School in Boston (1846)[edit]

William Barton Rogers, Letter written at the University of Virginia, Life and Letters of William Barton Rogers (1896) Vol. 1, p. 420. The plan was included in the Letter: "William to His Brother Henry" (March 13, 1846).
  • A School of practical science completely organized should... embrace full courses... in all the principles of physical truth having direct relation to the art of constructing machinery, the application of motive power, manufactures, mechanical and chemical, the art of engraving with electrotype and photography, mineral exploration and mining, chemical analysis, engineering, locomotion and agriculture. It would require two departments.
  • First, one in which... a broad and solid foundation should be laid in general physics, including especially the mechanics of solids, liquids and airs, and the laws of heat, electricity, magnetism and light, and in the chemistry of the more important inorganic and organic principles.
  • The other, and entirely practical department, would embrace instruction in chemical manipulation and the analysis of chemical products, ores, metals and other materials used in the arts, as well as of soils and manures.
  • Second,—A course of practical, elementary mathematics...
  • Third,—full instruction in drawing and modelling.
  • This branch should also include special courses of teaching in architecture, engineering and the various branches of the arts not treated of in the first department. This second division of the school besides employing... tutors, or sub-professors... might yearly invite the aid of eminent practical men to give courses of lectures on the various branches of applied science not otherwise provided for, or... engage the services of such permanently for the more important subjects...
  • I doubt not that such a nucleus-school would, with... growth of this... community, finally expand into a great institution comprehending the whole field of physical science and the arts with the auxiliary branches of the mathematics and modern languages, and would soon overtop the universities of the land in the accuracy and the extent of its teachings in all branches of positive knowledge.
  • ...[T]he scientific, or more properly the mixed department, should so frame their general courses of lectures as to make them acceptable and useful to the public at large, and thus furnish annual courses on general physics, chemistry and geology, which might draw all the lovers of knowledge of both sexes to the halls of the Institute, whether they proposed or not, continuing their studies in the other and directly practical branches of the Institution. This... should be... done without any sacrifice of the exactness of scientific or practical demonstration to mere popular effect.
  • We know how successful have been the courses in the Royal Institute of London, where Brandt, Faraday and Wheatstone have for years been the chief instructors of practical science. The school in Boston... might well adopt the valuable practice of the Royal Institute of having stated lectures for diffusing a knowledge of important new inventions in the arts, and discourses in physical science. By so doing besides the general benefit of an early communication of valuable truths, often so important to practical men, there would arise the special advantage... of a reputation for being foremost in the appreciation and promulgation of such useful knowledge, and this would give it a strong claim upon the respect and affection of the public.
  • ...[T]here is no branch of practical industry, whether in the arts of construction, manufactures or agriculture, which is not capable of being better practised, and even of being improved in its processes, through the knowledge of its connections with physical truths and laws, and therefore ...there is no class of operatives to whom the teaching of science may not become of direct and substantial utility and material usefulness.
  • It would... be especially adapted to fulfil another... higher purpose by leading the thoughts of the practical student into those wide and elevated regions of reflection to which the study of Nature's laws never fails to conduct the mind. Thus linking the daily details of his profession with the grander physical agencies... and with much of what is agreeable and ennobling in the contemplation of external things, it would insensibly elevate and refine his character and contribute to the cheerfulness as it aided the efficiency of his labours.
  • ...[P]hysical studies are better capable of being useful to the operative classes than the study of literature or morals, because their truths are more readily and eagerly seized upon by such minds and form the strong staple of practical usefulness thus firmly infixed.
  • It is easy to extend the golden chain of relations until these may embrace every realm of nature and of thought.
  • A polytechnic school... has in view an object of the utmost practical value... which in such a community as that of Boston could not fail of being realized in the amplest degree.

Acts and Resolves of the General Court Relating to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1861)[edit]

Acts of 1861, Chapter 123 of the Massachusetts General Court (the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts). The Charter of Incorporation (Approved April 10, 1861). A source.
  • William B. Rogers, James M. Beebe, E. S. Tobey, S. H. Gookin, E. B. Bigelow, M. D. Ross, J. D. Philbrick, F. H. Storer, J. D. Runkle, C. H. Dalton, J. B. Francis, I. C. Hoadley, M. P. Wilder, C. L. Flint, Thomas Rice, John Chase, J. P. Robinson, F. W. Lincoln, Jr., Thomas Aspinwall, J. A. Dupee, E. C. Cabot, their associates and successors, are hereby made a body corporate, by the name of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for the purpose of instituting and maintaining a society of arts, a museum of arts, and a school of industrial science, and aiding generally, by suitable means, the advancement, development, and practical application of science in connection with arts, agriculture, manufactures and commerce; with all the powers and privileges, and subject to all the duties, restrictions and liabilities, set forth in the sixty-eighth chapter of the General Statutes.
    • Section 1.
  • [P]ersons from the Commonwealth shall be alike eligible as members of said institute, or as pupils for its instructions; and its museum or conservatory of arts, at all reasonable times and under reasonable regulations, shall be open to the public...
    • Section 4.
  • The Boston Society of Natural History shall be entitled to hold, occupy and control, for the objects and purposes for which said society was incorporated... the easterly portion of said second square to the extent of one-third part thereof...
    • Section 5.
  • The above named societies shall not cover with their buildings more than one third of the area granted to them respectively.
    • Section 7.

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