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Oral history interview with Vannevar Bush

Identifier: MC-0143

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

In 1964 Eric Hodgins interviewed Bush in preparation for Bush's autobiography, Pieces of the Action (1970). In the 1120-page interview transcript, Bush discussed his family and education at Tufts University; early years at MIT as a member of the Department of Electrical Engineering, his research and patents, including the development of the differential analyzer, and his roles as executive vice president and dean of the School of Engineering; his decision to become president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1939; his role in the war effort as chair of the NDRC and later OSRD; and his thoughts on post-war science issues, including cooperation between government and universities for research, and the many government agencies and committees in the federal government involved in making science policy.


  • Creation: 1964


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Vannevar Bush, 1890-1974, BS and MS 1913, Tufts College; EgD 1916, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came to MIT in 1919 as associate professor of electrical power and was made full professor in 1923. At MIT he designed the product integraph, an early computation machine, and in 1931 he completed the differential analyzer, which solved sixth-order differential equations or three simultaneous second-order differential equations and served as the prototype for other machines. At MIT he was vice president and first dean of the School of Engineering, 1932-1938, and in 1939 became a life member of the MIT Corporation. He was president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC, 1938-1955, and became chair of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) in 1940. Bush was made director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) when it was created in 1941 to oversee scientific research and development required for the war effort. In 1944 President Roosevelt asked him to make recommendations on government policies for supporting research, developing scientific and technical talents, and diffusing scientific information. His report, Science, the Endless Frontier (1945), led to the establishment of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1947. He remained actively involved with governmental administration of scientific research until 1955.


0.6 Cubic Feet (2 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials


Related Materials in the Institute Archives

Vannevar Bush papers (MC-0078).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the Vice President, records of Vannevar Bush (AC-0333).


  • Bush, Vannevar. Pieces of the Action. New York: Morrow, 1970. MIT Libraries.
  • Bush, Vannevar. Science Is Not Enough. New York: Morrow, 1967. MIT Libraries.
  • Bush, Vannevar. Science, the Endless Frontier: A Report to the President on a Program for Postwar Scientific Research. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation, 1990. MIT Libraries.

Processing Information note

Pages are inconsistently numbered and gaps in pagination exist in the transcript.

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 Oral History Interview with Vannevar Bush, 1964
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