150 Contributions MIT Has Made to the World

By: | July 26th, 2015

The Boston Globe published a list of MIT 150 or “150 fascinating, fun, important, interesting, life-saving, life-altering, bizarre and old ways that MIT has made a difference” back in 2011 as part of a celebration of MIT’s 150th anniversary. The school was founded in 1861.

The school has produced 76 Nobel Prize winners, 38 MacArthur Fellows and changed the world in so many ways. It’s worth taking a look at the list to see how one institution can make such a big difference in the world.

Following is the list of things created by MIT students, professors, labs, and alumni as part of the MIT 150:

  1. World Wide Web Consortium – The web was invented by Tim Burners-Lee in 1989 in Geneva, Switzerland while working in a physics lab. But, in 1994, he visited MIT where he created the World Wide Web Consortium, which now sets the standards for internet websites, browsers, devices, and more.
  2. Mapping the body –  Move over Craig Venter; initial efforts to map the human genome were started at MIT where Eric Lander influenced about one-third of it. Lander went on to found the Broad Institute, a leading genomics research group.
  3. Transistor Radio
  4. Send. Reply. Delete – In 1971, MIT Alum Ray Tomlinson sent the first email between two computers on the ARPANET and chose the @ symbol to separate the user’s name from the computer “host.”
  5. Birth of biotech
  6. The Minicomputer
  7. The New Robots – starting with iRobot Corp., established in 1990 by MIT grads Helen Greiner and Colin Angle.
  8. Standards for food & water – Establishment of the first municipal water quality standards and municipal sewage treatment, both spearheaded by the first woman admitted to MIT, Ellen Swallow Richards.
  9. Bose – Created by MIT electrical engineering professor Amar Bose.
  10. GPS – Global Positioning Systems developed in MIT’s radiation lab by Ivan Getting during World War II.
  11. Father of Biology – Salvador Luria founded the MIT Center for Cancer Research in 1974 and won a Nobel Prize for research on the Darwinian evolution of viruses that infect bacteria.
  12. Key to the Kindle – There would be no Kindle without MIT Media Labs associate professor Joseph Jacobson, who co-founded E Ink Corp., the company that created the first highly readable electronic screens.
  13. The Spreadsheet – Dan Bricklin, a 1973 graduate of MIT, was sitting in a classroom at the Harvard business school when he suddenly came up with the idea for an “electronic spreadsheet” which he called a “Calcledger.” The original program was written on an MIT mainframe computer at the cost of one dollar per hour, and fellow MIT alum Bob Frankston wrote the program that became VisiCalc, which led to Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel.
  14. The Internet Never Forgets – Brewster Kahle, a 1982 MIT computer science graduate, created the Internet Archive in 1996, which collects websites, television broadcasts, movies, bootleg recordings of the Grateful Dead, and other digital information.
  15. Heavy Traffic – In the late 1990s, Daniel Lewin and his MIT math professor Tom Leighton devised a way to send large amounts of data over the Internet, which led to the creation of Akamai Technologies, Inc. Akamai Technologies handles 30% of the world’s Internet traffic, and it made Lewin a billionaire. On September 11, 2001, at age 31, he was on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
  16. An Early Version of Google – In the 1920s, MIT professor Vannevar Bush, as science advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, conceived of the “Memex,” a database device to store an individual’s books and correspondence that could be searched instantly.
  17. First Air Conditioned Building – Pietro Belluschi, Dean of the School of Architecture & Planning from 1961-1965, designed the Equitable Building, the first large commercial building in the country to be fully air-conditioned. His idea to wrap the building in aluminum and use double-glazed glass windows reduced glare from the sky and controlled solar heat.
  18. Protect Yourself – MIT professors Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman had an early hand in the creation of “public keys” to encrypt messages and to allow access using a “private key.” The three built RSA Security and sold it to EMC Corp. for $2.1 billion.
  19. Inertial Guidance Systems – Charles “Doc” Draper, an MIT student before World War II, invented the “inertial guidance system” in the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which he founded. It became the precise piloting system for ballistic missiles and for Apollo space missions that would have otherwise been impossible.
  20. Movies in Color – In 1915, MIT alums Herbert Kalmus and Daniel Comstock created Technicolor Corporation, and over 20 years developed high-quality color film that was used for the first time in the 1935 film “Becky Sharp.”

To continue with the list for #’s 21-150, please visit Boston.com.

David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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