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Vannevar Bush

Vannevar BushBorn: 11-Mar-1890
Birthplace: Everett, MA [1]
Died: 30-Jun-1974
Location of death: Belmont, MA
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Remains: Buried, South Dennis Cemetery, South Dennis, MA

Gender: Male
Religion: Unitarian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Inventor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Pre-internet visionary

Military service: US Navy Reserve (1924-32, Lt. Cmdr.)

American engineer and inventor Vannevar Bush studied under Arthur E. Kennelly and conducted submarine-detection research for the US Navy during World War I. In 1922 he was one of three co-founders of the American Appliance Company (now Raytheon), an electronics parts supplier. In 1935 he invented one of the earliest devices modern users might recognize as a computer, the differential analyzer, a huge machine capable of solving complex mathematical equations with up to eighteen independent variables. In 1938 he developed the first personal information processor, a device called the rapid selector, capable of high-speed retrieval of information stored on microfilm.

He was a scientific advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, and a key player in the Manhattan Project, the top secret effort to design and built the atomic bomb. His work was seen as proving that science and the military must work together, and he was an adamant advocate for such cooperation, which later came to be called the military-industrial complex. He was named the first Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1941, and in a 1945 report to Roosevelt, "Science, the Endless Frontier", Bush outlined the need for government support for scientific research, which led to establishment of the National Science Foundation in 1950. He later wrote that he envisioned "a technologically advanced America governed by the masters of science and technology."

His 1945 article titled "As We May Think", published in Atlantic Monthly, proposed what he called "the Memex" -- a mechanized, instantaneous system for storage and retrieval of huge volumes and variety of information, similar to what was later called hypertext. Though he was not directly involved in the technical work underpinning creation of the Internet, his students included Claude Shannon and Frederick Terman, and his work was a key influence on hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson. At the headiest days of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the early 1970s, copies of Bush's then 25-year-old article were among the materials distributed to newly-hired engineers. He was named for a friend of his father's, a minister named John Van Nevar, and friends called him "Van." He was not related to the political Bush family.


[1] Chelsea, MA, according to some sources.

Father: Richard Perry Bush (Universalist minister, b. 2-Jun-1855, d. 2-Apr-1926)
Mother: Emma Linwood Paine Bush (b. 1862, m. 23-Nov-1881)
Sister: Edith Bush (Dean at Tufts University)
Sister: Reba Bush Lawrence
Wife: Phoebe Davis (m. 5-Sep-1916, two sons)
Son: Richard Davis Bush (physician, b. 1918, d. 1-May-2001)
Son: John Hathaway Bush (President of Millipore Corp)

    High School: Chelsea High School, Chelsea, MA (1909)
    University:
BS Mathematics, Tufts University (1913)
    University: MS Mathematics, Tufts University (1913)
    Teacher: Mathematics, Clark University (1914-15)
    University: PhD Engineering, MIT and Harvard University (jointly, 1917)
    Teacher: Electrical Engineering, Tufts University (1916-17)
    Teacher: Electrical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1919-20)
    Professor: Electrical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1923-32, 1955-74)
    Administrator: Dean, School of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1932-39)
    Administrator: Chairman, MIT Corporation (1957-59)
    Administrator: Board of Directors, MIT Corporation (1959-74)

    Carnegie Institution for Science President (1938-55)
    Raytheon Co-Founder (1922)
    National Research Council Research (1917-19)
    General Electric Test Dept. (1913-14)
    Member of the Board of AT&T (1947-62)
    Member of the Board of Merck (1948-62, as Chairman, 1957-62)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Institute of Electrical Engineers
    American Mathematical Society
    American Philosophical Society
    American Physical Society
    Brookings Institution
    Cosmos Club
    Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society 1950
    National Academy of Sciences 1934
    National Defense Research Committee Chairman (1940-41)
    Office of Scientific Research and Development Director (1941-47)
    National Science Foundation Founder and Director (1950-53)
    National Science Foundation Advisory Committee (1953-55)
    Smithsonian Institution Trustee
    Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
    Franklin Institute's Louis Edward Levy Medal 1928
    ASME Holley Medal 1943
    IEEE Edison Medal 1943
    Hoover Medal 1946
    John Fritz Medal 1951
    National Inventors Hall of Fame 2004
    National Medal of Science
    Manhattan Project
    National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Chairman (1939-41)
    National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (1939-48)
    US War Department Chairman, Joint Research and Development Board (1946)
    Stroke 1974

Author of books:
Principles of Electrical Engineering (1922, textbook)
Operational Circuit Analysis (1929, textbook)
Scientists Face the World of 1942 (1942, nonfiction, with Karl T. Compton and Robert William Trullinger)
Science, the Endless Frontier (1945, nonfiction)
Endless Horizon (1946, essays and speeches)
Modern Arms and Free Me (1949, nonfiction)
Science Is Not Enough (1967, essays)
Pieces of the Action (1970, essays)


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