Vannevar Bush

Vannevar Bush "General of Physics" from Time, 1944/04/03
Vannevar Bush was born in Everett, Massachusetts, on March 11, 1890. He graduated from Tufts in 1913, with B.S. and M.S. degrees, and earned a Ph.D. in engineering from MIT and Harvard in 1916, one of the few joint doctorates awarded by these schools. He became assistant professor of electrical engineering at Tufts. On September 5 married Phoebe Davis and had two children, and lived in Chelsea near Boston. Richard Davis and John Hathaway. During World War I. Bush developed a submarine magnetic detector for the Navy antisubmarine laboratory at New London, CT. After the war he taught electrical power transmission as an associate professor at MIT and became a consultant for the American Research and Development Corporation (AMRAD). He and Charles G. Smith invented a gaseous rectifier tube, the S tube, to replace radio batteries and alllow the use of home electrical current. With Laurence K. Marshall, he started the Raytheon Corporation making vacuum tubes and thermostats. To improve the solution of complex mathematical equations, Bush developed a mechanical differential analyzer by 1931 that used revolving disk integrators to trace equations on drawing boards and was used in universities and corporations until the electrical Rockefeller differential analyzer was developed to calculate ballistic curve tables during World War II. In 1932 MIT president Karl Compton appointed Bush dean of engineering and vice-president of MIT. In 1934 he became a member of the National Academy of Sciences, served on the Science Advisory Board with Compton, was chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Through his efforts and those of friends Compton and Frank Jewett and James B. Conant, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Bush chairman of the new National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) on June 27, 1940 that promoted government sponsorship of private research. In 1942 the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) absorbed the NDRC and directly sponsored the development of a wide variety of scientific developments, from microwave radar to DDT, during World War II.

He published the essay, "As We May Think" in the July, 1945 issue of Atlantic Monthly that described a theoretical machine called Memex that would use hypertext to organize and retrieve information. His differential analyzer and his article were important steps in the evolution of the computer. After the war, Bush argued in his report "Science, the Endless Frontier" for continued government sponsorship of research and development, and as a result helped establish the Atomic Energy Commission in 1946 and the National Science Foundation in 1950. Large universities such as MIT became part of what Eisenhower would later call the "military-industrial complex" that developed new technologies such as the SAGE air defense system in the Cold War. However, he opposed the "age of paranoia" of Joseph McCarthy and the arms race and the H-bomb. He defended J. Robert Oppenheimer, previous chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission's General Advisory Committee, but was unable to prevent Oppenheimer's loss of his security clearance in 1954. Bush prospered in private employment with the Carnegie Institution after the war, and as director of AT&T until 1962, and as chairman of the board at Merck from 1957 until 1962. He received many honorary degrees and scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1964 and the Atomic Pioneers Award in 1970. He died from pneumonia after suffering a stroke in 1974.