COVID-19 and DCA
Vannevar Bush Papers
Scope and Contents
- Majority of material found within 1915 -- 1974
- 1909 -- 1988
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Use
1.7 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Biographical / Historical
Vannevar Bush (1890-1974), E1913 G1913, was an active member of the Tufts community throughout his life. He was a member of the Board of Trustees, a noted benefactor, and a recipient of the prestigious Ballou Medal. Vannevar "Van" Bush was nationally recognized as an outstanding scholar, engineer, and scientist who developed an early version of the computer and oversaw scientific research in the United States during World War II.
Bush's father, Reverend Richard Perry Bush (R1879, H1905), was a Universalist clergyman and lecturer at Tufts School of Religion at the time of his son's birth in 1890. Both of Bush's sisters were also alumnae of the college, with Edith Linwood Bush (W1903, H1942) serving as dean of Jackson College for twenty-seven years and also as the first female professor of mathematics in the Engineering School.
Bush received both his bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from Tufts in 1913, and received his Doctor of Engineering degree through a joint program between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1916. Bush began to work in the test department of General Electric (1913) and the inspection department of the U.S. Navy (1914) before becoming an instructor of mathematics at Tufts in 1914. Following his graduation from Harvard and MIT, Bush continued as an assistant professor in Electrical Engineering, and Premedical Physics at Tufts until 1917. He worked with several other recent Tufts' alumni in 1915 to develop the American Radio and Research Corporation (AMRAD) on campus. The program remained affiliated with Tufts until 1931, when it merged with Magnavox. During World War II, Vannevar Bush's work with AMRAD involved the development of submarine detection technology.
In 1919, Bush returned to MIT as an associate professor of Electrical Power Transmission and became a full professor in 1923. He took on the dual role of the Institute's Vice President and Dean of Engineering in 1932. While a member of the faculty, Bush joined with two associates, including his former Tufts roommate, Laurence Marshall, to found the American Appliance Company, which later became Raytheon Manufacturing Company and continued to evolve into the Metals and Controls Corporation, which manufactured nuclear fuel.
Vannevar Bush was also an early figure in the development of computer technology recognizing the need for a machine able to perform mechanical tasks too arduous for mathematicians. In 1930, he developed a differential analyzer, the predecessor of the analog computer.
Bush left MIT in 1938 to become president of the Carnegie Institution, a scientific research organization in Washington, D. C. He retired from the organization in 1955, returning to MIT as Chairman of the Corporation. He also served on the Board of Directors of several large corporations including as Chairman of the Board of Merck and Company.
During World War II, Bush did scientific and policy related work, e.g. he served as chairman of the National Defense Research Committee. He was a central figure in the development of nuclear fission and the subsequent development of the atomic bomb. His report, "Science, the Endless Frontier," which he submitted to the President of the United States in 1945, had a far reaching impact on peacetime research and technology throughout both the country and the world.
Bush was awarded his first of more than two dozen honorary degrees in 1932 from Tufts and became a trustee in 1933. In 1941, he was recipient of the Ballou Medal, the highest award Tufts bestows upon an alumnus. He also received the Distinguished Service Award of the Tufts Alumni Council in 1947. Bush aided in the building program for the College of Engineering in the 1950s and in Tufts' 1960s capital fund drive.
Vannevar Bush's health declined steadily following a stroke and died on June 28, 1974 in Belmont, MA.
5 folders from the Vertical Files regarding Vannevar Bush were removed to this collection and processed as part of the personal papers, circa 2010.
Processed by MacKenzie Brigham, supervised by Susanne Belovari, February 2010.