Brief Overview of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Brief Overview of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

As one of the US leading engineering and scientific establishments, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or simply MIT) is world-famous for its prestige and history. More than a hundred of Nobel Prize and Turing Awards laureates, as well as many well-known entrepreneurs, scientists, and astronauts, have been among its alumni. Universally acknowledged as world’s #1 University of 2018 and 2019, MIT has been holding the top places in various global educational institution rankings for more than a decade. Experts from this pro writing service consider it to be the best University in the World.

The Institute’s campus consists of nearly a hundred buildings of diverse architecture, including main halls and smaller blocks, occupying a 168-acre site in Cambridge city, Massachusetts. The campus hosts tens of thousands of students and faculty employees, with more than 500 student organizations active at the moment. 

History of MIT

MIT was founded in 1961 by William B. Rogers, a professor of the University of Virginia. His goal was to create an institution with both professional and liberal arts orientation, which was an innovative approach at the time. Initially, the campus was located on the outskirts of the Boston city, on the newly claimed lands just cleared from swamps not so long ago.

Because of the Civil War outbreak, the first 15 students attended classes in the new school only in 1865. Despite the rapid growth of the number of applicants, MIT was struggling with the lack of financing until the beginning of the next century, when the situation started to improve. In 1912 a new campus was founded in the nearby city of Cambridge where a much bigger space was held untouched. MIT officially moved to the new place in 1916 and continued to grow. 

Beginning from 1930, when its new president Karl T. Compton took office, MIT has been significantly reformed. Areas of pure scientific research including physics and chemistry have been added to its curriculum while some outdated technical disciplines have been reduced. As a result, new faculties were founded and new research fields appeared, including analog computing and aeronautics.

During WWII, the Radiation Laboratory was created together with a number of other military research units. Beginning from 1949, new programs related to humanities, arts, social science, and management appeared, as well as some defense projects. In 1976 the Institute was qualified as a sea-grant college because of its significant contribution to oceanography and marine life research.

By the 1980s it became actively involved in research programs in rocketry and space, resulting in its qualification as a space-grant college in 1989. MIT’s contribution to the newest digital technologies cannot be overestimated: it has been hosting the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, the World Wide Web standards organization, artificial intelligence laboratories, drones research programs, and many more.

Sightseeing in MIT

As already mentioned above, MIT’s campus boasts a number of remarkable examples of architectural design, some of them lasting from the early 20th century. It is situated in the southern part of Cambridge, stretching along the bank of the Charles River for more than 1.5 miles. Its main entrance is via Massachusetts Avenue, from Boston via the Harvard Bridge crossing the river – a picturesque scenery, uniting fragments of Institute’s old history with modern hi-tech urbanistic trends. 

Inside the campus one can see the following curious buildings and exhibitions:

  • A number of neoclassical buildings completed between 1912 and 1917; the most prominent and tallest of them named Great Dome (1916) has a structure partially imitating that of Rome’s Pantheon and hosts several libraries.
  • Killian Court originally built as a paved square in 1916 but converted into a park in the 1920s; its surrounding buildings are marble-clad and have friezes with carved names of prominent scientists.
  • Modernist-style buildings constructed during the 1940s-1950s, including Alumni Pool and MIT Chapel.
  • Surprisingly modern-looking Kresge Auditorium whose dome has the exact shape of 1/8th of a sphere.
  • Curiously shaped Ray and Maria Stata Center completed in 2004. It hosts Electrical Engineering and Computer Science labs as well as some other units. 
  • The List Visual Arts Center exhibiting over 1,500 artworks from MIT’s collections.
  • Hundreds of sculptures and installations throughout the campus.

Thanks to its huge popularity at home and abroad, numerous tours around the Institute’s campus are taking place throughout the year. Attending them is highly recommended for tourists exploring the history and culture of the Greater Boston area as well as for would-be applicants who wish to dive into the campus’ life prior to applying there.

Curious facts about MIT

Ellen Swallow Richards, who graduated from MIT with a degree in chemistry in 1873, was the first American woman who managed to enter a scientific or technological school as well as the first one to obtain a degree in chemistry. Later she became a founder of the home economics science and a pioneer researcher in nutrition chemistry. Ellen Swallow Richards is also considered the first ecofeminist because of her works about the influence of women’s housekeeping on the national economy.

Robert Robinson Taylor, graduated from MIT with a degree in architecture, was not only the first African-American graduate of the Institute but also the first accredited architect of African-American origin in US history. He later became a professor at the Tuskegee Institute, has designed a number of buildings for Tuskegee and went to Liberia in 1929 to oversee some ambitious architectural programs.

The Beaver: MIT’s Mascot. This cute beast was chosen as the Institute semi-official emblem in 1914. It happened at a dinner of the Technology Club of New York, where MIT’s president Richard C. Maclaurin agreed to adopt this new mascot. During the discussion, the following remark was made, “Of all the animals of the world, the beaver is noted for his engineering and mechanical skills and habits of industry. His habits are nocturnal, he does his best work in the dark.” (a quote from a contemporary natural history book).

Winston Churchill speaking at the Mid-Century Convocation symposium hosted by MIT in 1949 has shared some of his unique insights and reflections from the past decades during a speech about the role of science and technology in the post-war world.


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