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Gordon Stanley Brown papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0024

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Gordon Stanley Brown collection documents Brown's career as teacher, research engineer, and administrator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lecture notes, problem sets, and other teaching materials describe his course Theory and Applications of Servomechanisms, first taught in 1940. A summary of wartime activity, as well as correspondence, describes Brown's role as founder and director of the Servomechanisms Laboratory. Correspondence and reports document his relationship with Jay Forrester and his contributions to the development of the Systems Dynamics Program. Papers of the Committee on Outside Commitments document Brown's role as chair of the review of MIT's involvement with outside organizations which led to the establishment of the Review Panel on Special Laboratories in 1969.

Brown played a major role in MIT's development of educational programs in science and technology in India, Iran, Singapore, South America, and Spain. MIT's relationship with the Birla Institute of Technology and Science is well documented in descriptions of academic programs, information about MIT's assistance, and administrative and correspondence files. Brown's interests in engineering education and the application of new technologies to various urban and industrial systems is reflected in his correspondence with professional organizations, including the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the American Society for Engineering Education, Dartmouth College, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the National Academy of Engineering. Correspondence also documents his role as vice chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Foundation (1970-1974) which sought to apply the resources of Massachusetts' high technology community to the state's problems. Brown's speeches and writings present his views on automatic control, engineering education, continuing education for professional engineers, the role of engineers in society, bioengineering, and MIT's role in the development of computers.

The collection also includes an oral history interview of Gordon Brown conducted by Alex Pang in 1985.

Brown's official MIT records form a separate collection in the Institute Archives: AC-0012, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering, Office of the Dean.


  • Creation: 1920 - 1984


Access note

Portions of 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. Restrictions and materials requiring review are noted in the finding aid.

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.


Gordon Stanley Brown, 1907-1996, diploma in mechanical and electrical engineering, 1925, Royal Melbourne Technical School, Australia; SB 1931, SM 1934, ScD 1938, all in electrical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was an engineer with the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, Australia, from 1926 to 1929, when he came to MIT. After several years as an instructor, he became a member of the faculty of the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1939. He was assistant professor, 1939-1941, and associate professor, 1941-1946; he was made professor in 1946, Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Engineering in 1968, and Institute Professor in 1973. He was head of the Department of Electrical Engineering, 1952-1959, and dean of the School of Engineering, 1959-1968. He retired in 1974 as Institute Professor emeritus.

In 1939 Brown established the Servomechanisms Laboratory at MIT and served as its director until 1952. The laboratory’s research included work that led to the Whirlwind Digital Computer, as well as the numerical control of machine tools and the development of the Automatically Programmed Tool System. During World War II Brown was consultant to the Fire Control Department of the Sperry Gyroscope Company, and from 1942 to 1944 he was War Department Consultant to the Fire Control Design Section of the Frankford Arsenal.

During his tenure as dean of the School of Engineering, he contributed to establishing the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, the Center for Advanced Engineering Study, the Information Processing Services Center, and in Project Intrex. During the 1960s and 1970s, when MIT instituted several programs to assist developing nations to establish technological education and research institutions, Brown was an advisor on administrative and educational issues to institutions including the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India, the Technical University of Berlin, the Ayra-Mehr University of Technology in Iran, and the University of Singapore.

Brown was a student of Vannevar Bush, Harold Hazen, and Norbert Wiener, and the subject of his doctoral thesis was the Cinema Integraph, one of the precursors to the analog computer. He continued to work in the field of computers and automation and made contributions in feedback controls, specifically for guns, radar, and industrial processes.


28.9 Cubic Feet (28 record cartons, 2 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 2 audiocassettes)

Language of Materials



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

Source of Acquisition

Materials were given to the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) by Gordon Brown in 1979 and 1981. An oral history interview of Gordon Brown conducted by Alex Pang was added to the collection in 1986.

Related Materials in the Institute Archives

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Servomechanisms Laboratory records (AC-0151).

Project Whirlwind Collection (MC-0665).

Jay Wright Forrester papers (MC-0439).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Engineering, Office of the Dean records, 1943-2002 (AC-0012).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Review Panel on Special Laboratories records, 1969-1971 (AC-0054).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Commission on MIT Education records, 1969-1971 (AC-0056).

Kanpur Indo-American Program records, 1961-1972 (AC-0334).

Arthur T. Ippen papers (MC-0011).

MIT. Office of the President. Records, 1930-1959 (AC-0004).


The following boxes are partially screened:

-Box 2 (CT, 8/2/2018) -Box 3 (CT, 8/2/2018) -Box 4 (CT, 8/2/2018) -Box 7 (CT, 8/2/2018) -Box 8 (CT, 8/3/2018) -Box 9 (CT, 8/3/2018)

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.


Guide to the Papers of Gordon Stanley Brown
Ready For Review
Amy Sugarman
Copyright 1984
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of this collection was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Title II-C.

Revision Statements

  • 2023 February 22: Revised by processing archivist Chris Tanguay in February 2023 to update access notes and enhance description.

Repository Details

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

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US