Vannevar Bush Papers, 1909 -- 1988


Title: Vannevar Bush Papers
Dates: 1909 -- 1988
Bulk Dates: 1915 -- 1974
Creator: Bush, Vannevar
Call Number: MS169
Size: 1.7 Linear Feet, 2 boxes
Language(s): English  
Permanent URL:
    Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University


This collection consists of Vannevar Bush's personal papers from 1910 until 1988, as well as a scrapbook documenting his life at Tufts from 1909-1915. Bush's personal papers were for the most part originally compiled by Russell Miller, and include articles and speeches, biographical statements, newspaper clippings, photographs and correspondence. They also include five folders removed from the Vertical File Collection and processed as part of the personal papers. His scrapbook contains programs and bulletins describing Tufts events, personal notes and keepsakes, dance books, and small articles of ephemera. This collection documents student life at Tufts in the early 20th century and sheds light on the professional and personal life of Vannevar Bush.


This collection is organized into two series: Personal papers; Scrapbook.


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.

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see "Reproductions and Use" on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor of the scrapbook possesses have been transferred to Tufts University.

Preferred Citation

Vannevar Bush Papers, 1909 -- 1988. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Collection History

Processing Notes

Original order and provenance of the Personal papers are unknown. The majority of the folders that make up personal papers were created as subject files (Bush, Vannevar) by Russell Miller while doing research for his book about Tufts University. Newspaper clippings found in the folders were separated out into their own folder, "Newspaper Clippings" to prevent deterioration of neighboring documents. Otherwise, original folder organization was maintained and folders were given descriptive titles.

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.

This collection is processed.

Subjects and Genre Terms
Related Material

Series Description

  1. Personal papers, 1910 -- 1988

    This series contains Vannevar Bush's personal papers including documents dating from 1910 to 1988. The materials in this series include articles and speeches written by Bush on topics including the atomic bomb, management, science, technology, politics and education. Many of these speeches and articles were written while Bush was acting as President of the Carnegie Institution. These papers also include an abstract of his Tufts thesis, "Oscillating-Current Circuits," and a statement made by V. Bush before the U.S. Congress Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly regarding patents. Also included are biographical sketches and newspaper clippings as well as a collection of correspondence. This correspondence relates to various early positions that Vannevar Bush held at the University, as well as his activity in the 1950s and 1960s as a donor and fundraiser for Tufts Engineering.

  2. Scrapbook, 1909 -- 1915

    This series contains Vannevar Bush's scrapbook. It contains a collection of photographs, dance books, event programs, newspaper clippings, notes and other objects documenting his student years from 1909-1913, as well as his early professional years from 1914-1915. Included are cigar wrappers, a small watercolor painting, a fishing sinker, and two small silk pillows, along with a small collection of postcards and holiday greeting cards and a collection of signatures from Bush's friends and colleagues. This book provides documentation of student life at Tufts in the early 20th century, providing background on student interests and activities, Tufts-related events, and social interactions.