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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Humanities and Social Science, Office of the Dean, records of John E. Burchard

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0020

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Description covers boxes 1-7

The collection is composed of the administrative records of the Deans of Humanities from 1933 to 1973. It includes material from the administrations of Edwin Sharp Burdell (1937-1938), Robert Granville Caldwell (1938-1948), John E. Burchard (1948-1964), and Robert L. Bishop (1964-1973). The bulk of the collection is composed of interoffice memoranda and correspondence which discuss aspects of the administration and development of the humanities in a polytechnic school. Topics include the addition and elimination of departments; the hiring of new faculty and their responsibilities as members of the staff; the implications of changes in humanities programs or other Institute programs; the changing needs of the student body; and the larger demands of society. The collection also includes correspondence with other technical schools discussing their humanities programs. Records of the Division when it was under the supervision of the deans of the other Schools are in the collection, but are not extensive. Of special importance are documents recording the organizational changes in the position of the humanities at MIT (see box 4).

Edwin Burdell was the first Dean of Humanities, serving for only one year (June 1937-June 1938). Because his administration was so brief, there is only a small amount of material created by him in the collection. The Burdell material records the transfer of administrative responsibility for the Division to a single dean (see the folders on General Studies).

The records created by Robert G. Caldwell as dean (1938-1948) reflect the internal growth of the Division of Humanities and its expansion into research (e.g., Research Center for Group Dynamics) and extracurricular activities (e.g., the Lecture Series Committee). During his tenure as dean, he also served as chair of the Cultural Division in the Office of Inter-American Affairs under the National Defense Council (1940-1941) and as a member of the General Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations for the Department of State (1941-1943), and the collection includes some material from these activities. The records also include material on military training programs during World War II and education provisions for servicemen after the war.

The records from John Ely Burchard’s deanship constitute the bulk of the collection, partly because of his long association with the Institute and his involvement in many special events and committees. An MIT alumnus, Burchard held various positions at the Institute, including that director of the Albert Farwell Bemis Foundation, which is represented by a few folders in the collection, and director of libraries. In 1948 he was appointed Dean of Humanities and in 1950, the first Dean of Humanities for the newly established School of Humanities and Social Studies, a position he held until his retirement in 1964. While at MIT, he served as chair of a number of committees including the coordinating committees for the MIT Mid-Century Convocation on the Social Implications of Scientific Progress held in 1949 (whose guests included Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill) and the MIT Centennial in 1961. Both of these events are well documented in the collection. Other MIT committees documented in the collection are the Alumni Fund and the Buildings and Grounds Committee. The collection also reflects other non-MIT activities and includes correspondence with persons Burchard met during his extensive travels around the globe.

It should be kept in mind that material from a particular correspondent or about a subject will not be found solely in a folder bearing that title. For example, “President’s Office” is not the only folder in which one will find materials relating to this office, since correspondence and memoranda to and from this office will also be found in folders on topics about which the two offices communicated.

Records received in 1985, boxes 8-13 (1979-1983)

Material received in 1985 includes reports, memoranda and correspondence about budgets, personnel issues and policies, research activities and student projects, curriculum development, scholarships and fundraising, and exchange programs with foreign universities. There is information about MIT committees, including the Committee on Curricula, the Corporation Joint Advisory Committee, and the Committee on Privacy.

Records received in 1998, boxes 14-15

This material is unprocessed and restricted.


  • circa 1933-1991


Access note

This collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical note

Departments under the supervision of the Dean of Humanities from 1932-1976

Dean of Humanities in charge of the Division of Humanities

Edwin Sharp Burdell
Robert Granville Caldwell
John Ely Burchard

Dean of Humanities in charge of the School of Humanities

John Ely Burchard
Robert Lyle Bishop
Harold John Hanham

Departments under the supervision of the Dean of Humanities from 1932-1976

Modern Languages
Economics and Statistics
English and History
Military Science and Tactics
Economics and Social Sciences
General Studies
Museum and Exhibits (extra-departmental activity)
General Education
Political Science
Modern Languages and Linguistics
Foreign Languages and Linguistics
Linguistics and Philosophy

Historical note

Although founded in 1861 as a polytechnic institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began offering classes in the humanities and related subjects when students were first admitted in 1865. These courses were intended to supplement the curriculum in science and engineering and to prepare students for adult life.

During President Francis Amasa Walker’s administration (1881-1897), interest in the liberal arts, especially in the study of economics, developed. To meet the needs of students interested in a more general education, the degree program in Science and Literature (Course IX) was changed to a program in General Studies in 1886. The program in General Studies was discontinued in 1904 because of low enrollment, and Course IX reverted to being a program in General Science. In all the phases of Course IX, it was possible for students to elect more history, economics, language, literature, and other non-professional classes than in the Institute’s other degree programs. In 1920, an option in General Engineering was added to Course IX; degrees in General Science and General Engineering were granted until 1959, although Course IX was formally discontinued in 1957.

During the administration of President Karl Taylor Compton (1930-1949) work was done to improve the status of humanities and social sciences at MIT. On March 9, 1932, the MIT Corporation adopted a new plan of administration, creating three schools (Engineering, Science, and Architecture) and two divisions, including the Division of Humanities. The Division of Humanities differed from the schools in that it offered no programs leading to degrees. Aside from academic instruction in the fields of English, history, economics, and language, the division was also "...responsible for instruction in such fields as sociology, labor relations, government, international relations, law, philosophy, psychology, literature, music, and fine arts for both undergraduate and graduate students." The Department of Economics and Statistics, the Department of English and History, and the Department of Modern Languages were brought into the Division of Humanities in 1932. The division also had supervisory responsibilities for some extracurricular activities, such as drama, music, and museum exhibits. The administrative head of the division, originally to be called the director, but actually called the dean, reported to the vice president and the president.

Until the first dean, Edwin S. Burdell, was appointed in 1937, the duties of the director were divided among the deans of the three schools. Dean Robert Granville Caldwell was appointed in 1938. In 1944 a four-year program of required courses in the humanities and social sciences for undergraduates was adopted by the faculty. Its aim was to broaden the education of the students at MIT by requiring that each student “take one full course every year of a non-professional character” in addition to the required courses in a modern language. The mid-1940s also saw the establishment of a graduate program in economics at the Institute.

The Committee on Educational Survey, also known as the Lewis Committee, whose report was published in 1949, called for the establishment of a School of Humanities which could grant degrees. The School of Humanities and Social Studies was established in December 1950 with John Ely Burchard as the first dean. The Center for International Studies was founded and placed within the School in 1951 as an extra-departmental organization.

The psychology and political science sections were established in the Department of Economics and Social Science in 1951 and 1956 respectively. In 1954 a Department of Humanities was created within the school. The new department incorporated the Department of English and History and other areas of related academic interest. In 1955, Course XXI was begun so that students could major in humanities or social sciences in combination with science or engineering. The students received the degree of bachelor of science without specification of a science or engineering department.

In 1958 the name of the school was changed to School of Humanities and Social Science (SHSS). Graduate programs in political science (1958), philosophy (1963), psychology (1960), and linguistics (1961) were developed in addition to the well-established graduate program in economics. The early 1960s saw the establishment of philosophy (1961), music (1961), history (1960), and literature (1962) sections within the Department of Humanities.

Robert L. Bishop was appointed dean in 1964, serving until 1973. In 1964, the psychology section became a department. In 1965 the Department of Economics and Social Science (Course XIV) was terminated, and economics and political science achieved separate departmental status. Economics remained Course XIV while political science became Course XVII. Also in 1965 the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics superseded the Department of Modern Languages, and was in turn superseded in 1969 by the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics. In 1967 the undergraduate major in humanities was added. By 1968 the SHSS consisted of five departments (Humanities, Economics, Political Science, Modern Languages and Linguistics, and Psychology) and one research center (the Center for International Studies).

In 1971 the Commission on MIT Education began reevaluation of both the general structure and the specific content of the General Institute Requirements in the humanities and social sciences. In October 1971 Dean Bishop appointed a subcommittee of the School Council to examine various plans for revision of the core curriculum in humanities and social science.

Dean Harold John Hanham was appointed in 1973. During his tenure the SHSS stated its mission as comprising three elements: to provide highly developed graduate programs in economics, linguistics, philosophy, political science, and psychology; to enable students to satisfy MIT's humanities requirement (viewed by the SHSS as a general education requirement); and to maintain undergraduate subject majors in economics, philosophy, political science, humanities, and science and engineering. In 1973 the Technology Studies Program was developed to relate the humanities more directly to science and engineering.

In 1974 the freshman and sophomore core program was abolished, and a new form of the Institute requirement was approved, now titled the Institute Requirement in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), designed to specify the distribution and concentration of subjects taken in the humanities. Under the HASS requirement students had to take at least three subjects in three separate fields from a list of humanistically oriented distribution subjects, at least three of which would be taken in a given field in order to achieve some degree of depth in that field. The requirement was administered by a faculty committee composed of members from all schools at the Institute (previously the humanities requirements had been administered solely by humanities faculty). The new Institute Requirement, which came into full operation in academic year 1975-1976, led to a greater range of choice for freshmen and sophomores.

In 1975 the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics was discontinued as a separate course (Course XXIII), and the subjects of foreign languages and literatures and linguistics became part of the humanities department. In 1976 the Department of Philosophy was combined with linguistics to form the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy (Course XXIV). A new undergraduate program called Language and Mind was established within Course XXIV. That same year, cross-registration and cross-teaching between the SHSS and Wellesley College language faculty began. In 1977 the Technology Studies Program joined forces with the newly founded Program in Science, Technology, and Society. Ann Fetter Friedlaender was appointed dean in 1984. During her tenure, the Women's Studies Program was founded (1984), the Department of Psychology formally left the SHSS (1985) to become a part of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and the Statistics Center moved to the SHSS from the School of Science (1986).

In 1985-1986 an Institute-wide committee chaired by Professor Pauline Maier (history) recommended a new HASS-D (distribution) requirement and the restructuring of the current Hum-D requirement. The new HASS-D requirement, approved by the MIT faculty in 1987 and implemented over three years beginning in 1988-1989, was developed to ensure that students receive a broad and cohesive exposure to the humanities, arts, and social sciences. These goals were to be accomplished by imposing more structure on the distribution component of the HASS requirement and substantially reducing the number of subjects offered.

Philip Shukry Khoury became acting dean as of July 1, 1990, and was appointed dean in 1991, in which capacity he continued until July 1, 2006, when he became associate provost.

On July 1, 2000, the name of the school changed from the School of Humanities and Social Science to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences to recognize more fully the breadth and contributions of the arts at the Institute. Deborah K. Fitzgerald, associate dean of the school, became interim dean as of July 1, 2006, and was named dean in January 2007.


14.6 Cubic Feet (14 record cartons, 2 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Related Materials in the Institute Archives and Special Collections

John E. Burchard Papers (MC 76)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries, Records of the Office of the Director (AC 47)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Office of the Dean Records (AC 568)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mid-Century Convocation on the Social Implications of Scientific Progress Records (AC 172)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Centennial Week Records (AC 174)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Committee on Educational Survey Records (AC 124)

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Humanities and Social Science Office of the Dean
Ready For Review
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
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