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Vannevar Bush


Bush (1890-1974) was an engineer and inventory whose contributions to engineering and information science were considerable.  His most important contribution is widely considered to be his work as head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) during World War II.  In addition to crucial work for the Department of Defense and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of Bush’s (1890-1974) most important publications was “As We May Think,” published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1945 (176(1): 101-108).  This article defined a critical problem, the “information explosion,” and it proposed a solution, using the emerging technology to combat the problem.  He also founded the defense contracting firm Raytheon in 1922, developed the differential analyzer, and served as an unofficial presidential science adviser.  His report, Science, the Endless Frontier, was a pivotal report to the U.S. President in 1945, encouraging science as a government priority and the need for a government institution to support it, which eventually became the National Science Foundation.

Vannevar Bush Papers:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archives and Special Collections, Cambridge, MA (22.5 linear feet; in the papers of Norbert Weiner, there are some documents of Bush’s and VonNeuman’s.  Unpublished finding aid with an index is available at the Archives (1898-1966))

Also at MIT: (Vannevar Bush Papers, 53.5 linear feet, includes correspondence, reports, memos, research notes, calendars, etc. (1921-1974); collection includes transcript of Eric Hodgin’s interview with Bush in 1964 in preparation for his autobiography Pieces of the Action (1921-?))

Also at MIT: (Vannevar Bush oral history (1964), .7 cubic feet; search under Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974)

Library of Congress, Manuscript Division (22 feet (1918-1967) search under: Waterman, Alan Tower. Waterman was director of the National Science Foundation 1951-1963; papers include correspondence with Bush)

University of Pennsylvania, Van Pelt Library, Special Collections Department, Philadelphia, PA (1 item (1955) letter from Bush to Lewis Mumford)

Butler Library, Oral History Research Office, New York, NY (oral history interview (1967), 58 leaves; discussion of Carnegie Institution of Washington and Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1939-1955)