Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974
|Vannevar Bush (1890-1974), E1913, G1913, life member of the Board of Trustees, noted benefactor, and recipient of the Ballou Medal, 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 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 Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1916.Following his graduation, Bush continued his association with Tufts as an instructor in mathematics, assistant professor in Electrical Engineering, and professor of Premedical Physics until 1917. He worked with several other recent Tufts' alumni in 1915 to develop on campus the American Radio and Research Corporation (AMRAD), which remained affiliated with Tufts until 1931, when it merged with Magnavox.
In 1919, Bush returned to MIT as an associate professor of Electrical Power Transmission, gaining full professorship in 19, and then, Dean of Engineering in 1932.The same year he was appointed vice-president of the Institute. 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.
He was also an early figure in the development of computer technology, recognizing the need for 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 servedthe nation in a number of scientific and policy capacities, including 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 died on June 28, 1974.
Bush was awarded his first of more than two dozen honorary degrees in 1932 from Tufts and began his service to the college as 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 the Tufts University Program, the 1960s capital fund drive.
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 and continued as a member of the faculty when Bush was a freshman at the college. 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.