MIT Museum Opens 150th Anniversary Exhibition: A Few Items of Entrepreneurial Note

1/7/11Follow @gthuang

The MIT Museum in Cambridge, MA, is running a special exhibition, starting this weekend, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of MIT’s charter. The “MIT 150” exhibit showcases a collection of stories and artifacts that represent the institute’s contributions to science, technology, business, education, and society—things like Marvin Minsky’s robot arm, Claude Shannon’s maze-solving machine, J.C.R. Licklider’s Internet-presaging paper, Norbert Wiener’s letter describing a meeting with Albert Einstein, and much more.

The exhibit’s objects and themes were crowdsourced from the MIT community and organized by Deborah Douglas, curator of science and technology at the museum. It’s all part of a 150-day-long campus-wide celebration of MIT’s distinguished history. (Some sticklers for detail point out that MIT didn’t actually open its doors to students until 1865, so we might have to do all this celebrating over again in 2015.)

Here are a few items and links that caught my eye as being particularly relevant to MIT’s entrepreneurial legacy:

—The first business plan for Digital Equipment Corporation, and other items from American Research and Development Corporation, the equity investment firm co-founded by former MIT president Karl Compton (which originally invested $70,000 in DEC in 1957).

Artifacts commemorating the 25,000-plus active companies around the world founded by MIT alumni and faculty.

—Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child “XO” Laptop, from 2002.

—MIT’s first patent policy, from 1932.

—Richard Stallman’s GNU manifesto (1985), in response to companies making proprietary software.

Project Athena (1983-1991), a joint project by MIT, IBM, and DEC to integrate computers into the university curriculum. (OK, I’m sentimental about my first e-mail account.)

There is a celebration at the museum for the MIT community today from 3:00-5:00 pm, and a public program on January 14. The MIT 150 exhibition officially opens to the public tomorrow.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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