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A Widening Sphere: Evolving Cultures at MIT (The MIT Press) 2011

A Widening Sphere: Evolving Cultures at MIT (The MIT Press)

How MITs first nine presidents helped transform the Institute from a small technical school into a major research university.MIT was founded in 1861 as a polytechnic institute in Bostons Back Bay, overshadowed by its neighbor across the Charles River, Harvard University.

Harvard offered a classical education to young men of Americas ruling class; the early MIT trained men (and a few women) from all parts of society as engineers for the nations burgeoning industries. Over the years, MIT expanded its mission and ventured into other fields―pure science, social science, the humanities―and established itself in Cambridge as Harvards enduring rival.

In A Widening Sphere, Philip Alexander traces MITs evolution from polytechnic to major research institution through the lives of its first nine presidents, exploring how the ideas, outlook, approach, and personality of each shaped the schools intellectual and social cultures.

Alexander describes, among otherthings, the political skill and entrepreneurial spirit of founder and first president, William Rogers; institutional growing pains under John Runkle; Francis Walkers campaign to broaden the curriculum, especially in the social sciences, and to recruit first-rate faculty; James Crafts, whose heart lay in research, not administration; Henry Pritchetts thwarted effort to merge with Harvard (after which he decamped to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching); Richard Maclaurins successful strategy to move the institute to Cambridge, after considering other sites (including a golfclub in Brighton); the brilliant, progressive Ernest Nichols, who succumbed to chronic illness and barely held office; Samuel Strattons push towards a global perspective; and Karl Comptons vision for a new kind of Institute―a university polarized around science and technology.

Through these interlocking yet independent portraits, Alexander reveals the inner workings of a complex and dynamic community of innovators.

Series: The MIT Press
Hardcover: 508 pages Publisher: The MIT Press (February 25, 2011) Language: English ISBN-10: 0262015633 ISBN-13: 978-0262015639 Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds ()

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