Remember When…

One-time MIT student Daniel Chester French sculpted the Minute Man in 1875.

One-time MIT student Daniel Chester French sculpted the Minute Man in 1875.

Anyone who has spent spring on campus should be familiar with the Patriots’ Day holiday, Boston’s unofficial beginning of spring and the date of the Boston Marathon since 1897.

Historically, Patriots’ Day honors the first military engagements of the American Revolution—the battles of Lexington and Concord, which took place about 10 miles west of Cambridge in 1775. The battle at Concord’s Old North Bridge is commemorated by The Minute Man, a statue in Concord sculpted by former MIT student Daniel Chester French, who would later become famous for sculpting the colossal marble statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.

French, who lived from 1850 to 1931, spent less than a year at MIT as a student in the late 1860s. According to Chesterwood.org, the website for his historic property in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, he failed physics, algebra, and chemistry before leaving school to work and study with artists John Quincy Adams Ward and William Rimmer.

He was commissioned to execute The Minute Man, his first major monument, in 1873, and the statue was dedicated on the battles’ centenary on April 19, 1875. The seven-foot statue, which depicts a farmer armed with a rifle, launched his career. French spent parts of the next 15 years working in Boston, Washington, D.C., New York, Florence, and Paris.

By the turn of the 20th century,French was a sought-after artist based at Chesterwood, which would be designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. In 1903, he sculpted Continents, a massive four-part piece at the entrance of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York City, which depicts four women symbolizing Asia, America, Europe, and Africa.

A hacked John Harvard statue, which was sculpted by French and unveiled in 1884.

The (hacked) John Harvard statue, sculpted by French and unveiled in 1884.

French produced more than 100 monuments, memorials, and other works during his career, and in 1914, he was selected to sculpt the Lincoln statue. The work took more than three years, and the finished piece, unveiled in 1922, elicited some controversy: some believe that Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s face is carved into Lincoln’s hair.

“What I wanted to convey was the mental and physical strength of the great war President and his confidence in his ability to carry the thing through to a successful finish,” French wrote in 1922.

While his time as a student was unremarkable, French’s Cambridge legacy is permanent. He sculpted the bronze sculpture of John Harvard in Harvard Yard that is a frequent target for MIT hackers, who have added a toilet stall door, a brass rat, and an “Ask Me about My Lobotomy” sign over the years.

Because no photographic evidence exists to indicate what John Harvard actually looked like, an MIT urban legend suggests that French modeled the statue after one of his former MIT classmates.

Perhaps it was a hack, cast in bronze?

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2015 edition of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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The modern definition of the word "hack" was coined at MIT in April 1955. Photo: Nancy Crosby.

The modern definition of the word “hack” was first coined at MIT in April 1955. Photo: Nancy Crosby.

According to Wired magazine, the meaning of the word “hack” has been evolving for more than 500 years. Definitions include its earliest known usage in Middle English—“to cut with heavy blows in random fashion”—and its MIT-specific form— “mischief pulled off under a cloak of secrecy or misdirection”—that includes, but is not limited to,  a stolen canon and a disrupted football game.

But the more broad definition of hack, commonly associated with disrupting technology, was also coined at MIT and quietly first appeared in the minutes of MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) 60 years ago on April 5, 1955.

“Mr. Eccles requests that anyone working or hacking on the electrical system turn the power off to avoid fuse blowing.”

Mr. Eccles refers to William Eccles ’54, SM ’57, a then-MIT graduate student and member of the railroad club. In a 2014 post on the website trainorders.com, Thomas Madden ’59 elaborated on Eccles’ involvement.

“‘Hacks’ was the term applied to all manner of technology-based practical jokes at MIT, such as thermite welding a stopped trolley car to the tracks on Massachusetts Ave. I believe TMRC member Jack Dennis ’54, SM ’54, ScD ’58 is credited with applying the term as we now use it, but he was certainly abetted by fellow graduate student and roommate Bill Eccles.

“I remember each of them shouting ‘Hacker!’ in the club room whenever someone did something questionable—and they were particularly quick to shout it at each other. Often for no reason.”

And while many of the timeless MIT pranks that predated 1954—like gags on the old East Campus dorm in the 1930s or the Dipsy Duck in the late ’40s—are now known as hacks, Madden doesn’t recall that monicker during his time at MIT.

“Back then, I don’t remember calling them hacks,” he told Slice of MIT. “The were just practical jokes, or basically, things that you did and hoped you wouldn’t get caught.”

The first known mention of computer hacking occurred in a 1963 issue of The Tech.

The first known mention of computer hacking occurred in a 1963 issue of The Tech.

And for good measure, according to wordorigins.com, the first known connection between the hackers and computing also occurred at MIT, in a November 20, 1963, article in The Tech.

“Many telephone services have been curtailed because of so-called hackers, according to Profess Carlton Tucker…The hackers have accomplished such things as tying up all the tie-lines between Harvard and MIT, or making long-distance calls by charging them to a local radar installation.

“One method involved connecting the PDP-1 computer to the phone system to search the lines until a dial tone, indicating an outside line, was found…And because of the ‘hacking,’ the majority of the MIT phones are ‘trapped.’”

Hack isn’t the only world that hatched for the TMRC’s unique jargon. The club created released own dictionary beginning in 1959 and TMRC-spawned words like “foo,” “mung,” “frob,” and “cruft” are familiar words in the lexicon of computer programming.

Read more about the Tech Model Railroad Club in 2012 article in MIT Technology Review magazine.

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The US Postal Service announced the issue of a stamp honoring 1965 Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman ’39 on August 14, 2004. The day of the announcement was the independence day of Tannu Tuva, and it wasn’t a coincidence. Feynman and his friend and drumming partner Ralph Leighton had spent years trying to visit this small central Asian country near Mongolia.

It all started with a stamp.

Credit: US Postal Museum

Credit: US Postal Museum

Tuvan Stamp

1935 Tuvan Stamp; Credit: Wikimedia

In the 1920s and 30s, Tannu Tuva’s uniquely shaped diamond and triangle-shaped stamps were in high demand among stamp collectors. “Stamp designers were working away on these wonderful idyllic themes…which were firing the imaginations of kids around the world,” said Leighton.

Tuvan Stamp

1927 Tuvan stamp; Scanned by Stan Shebs

As one of those young stamp enthusiasts, Feynman became entranced by Tuvan stamps’ dramatic illustrations of camels racing trains, horse wranglers, and cattle mongers against otherworldly, mountainous scenes.

Fifty years later, Leighton and Feynman had a dinner conversation about geography, and Feynman mentioned his love of Tuvan stamps. The pair decided to travel to Tuva, which turned into an 11-year quest detailed in Leighton’s book Tuva or Bust! In a documentary about their plans, Feynman said of Tannu Tuva, “any country with a capital Kyzyl has just got to be interesting….we had discovered our Shangri-La.

Getting to the country was no small feat. At the time, Tuva was under the rule of the USSR and was rumored to be a testing ground for atomic bomb research. “I’m sure we were being watched,” recalls Leighton. “People couldn’t figure out why these guys would want to go to Tuva, especially someone who worked on the bomb.” (Feynman famously worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos)

Mock up of Feynman Tuva Stamp Credit: Ralph Leighton

Mock up of Feynman Tuva Stamp Credit: Ralph Leighton

The pair learned phrases of the Tuvan language, dreamed up crossing the border from Mongolia in shepherds’ disguises, acquired a rare recording of a Tuvan throat singer—Tuva is famous for this unique type of overtone music—and collaborated on a traveling exhibition of nomadic culture that turned out to be the largest ever from the Soviet Union. Feynman never made it to Tuva—he died in 1988—but Leighton and his wife were finally able to visit a few months later.

After Feynman died, Leighton launched another years-long campaign with his organization Friends of Tuva to petition the US Postal Service to honor his friend with a commemorative stamp. But not just any stamp—a diamond-shaped Tuvan stamp.

“We definitely wanted to make a connection between Feynman stamp collecting, Tuva, and a US postage stamp,” said Leighton. In one tongue-and-cheek mock-up stamp they dreamed up, Feynman is dressed as a shaman holding elements of his famous Feynman diagram with Tuvan throat singer Kongar-ol Ondar.

Thousands of letters and many signed petitions later, the Postal Service ultimately decided to feature Feynman in a stamp series on American scientists.

Learn more about Feynman’s lively lectures. Check out Ralph Leighton’s latest project, an illustrated children’s book Legends of the Groovin’ Tuvan.  

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Guest blogger: Professor James H. Williams, Jr.

Professor James H. Williams, Jr.

Professor James H. Williams, Jr.

In the new issue of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, Professor James H. Williams, Jr. ‘67, SM ‘68 writes about an unusual topic—this year’s fabulous football season in the context of campus culture and personal history. Professor Williams, an accomplished author as well as faculty member in MIT’s mechanical engineering department and writing and humanistic studies program, discusses the art, discipline, beauty, and management of football at MIT. This excerpt is likely to give you a taste for the longer piece titled “A Magical, Almost Perfect, Season.”

If you are a first-year undergraduate and want to study economics, linguistics, literature, political science, urban studies and planning, or writing at MIT, you must nevertheless take—or, perhaps I should say be grateful for the opportunity to take—freshman biology, calculus, chemistry, and physics alongside some of the world’s future top engineers, mathematicians, and scientists. There are no “basket-weaving” subject offerings or scholarships for jocks at MIT.

Thus, the task of finding enough students to play competitive intercollegiate football at MIT is immense. Even so, one of the distinctions of the Institute’s undergraduate population is that this body of students is also the same pool that has produced the largest number of Division III Academic All-Americans in the history of collegiate athletics. [In fact, my former research student (SB, SM, PhD) in 1979-80 became MIT’s first Academic All-American.]

I suggest that anyone who has not visited the MIT Athletics homepage do so. Whatever positive feelings you may already have for our undergraduates, your respect for them will grow after visiting the MIT Athletics homepage. You may also better understand why during my years as a student and faculty member, I have attended hundreds of intercollegiate athletic events involving MIT undergraduates and I competed on dozens of intramural athletic teams (until I broke my leg playing softball for the New West Campus Houses in 1982).

I often write about our undergraduates who need to hear more often how much the faculty and administration enjoy observing their growth and want to support them in achieving their goals. Last month, I was chatting in the corridor—where many, if not most, important conversations occur at MIT—with a colleague who was so pleased with the dedication and intellectual development of the undergraduates in a demanding disciplinary subject in mechanical engineering. Last year, I wrote the following to a senior administrator, in response to a speech he gave: “In the daily hustle and bustle of MIT, our students’ global perspectives, capabilities, and potential impacts can be easily submerged, and occasionally even lost. Thus, daring to positively change the world becomes an important message for them to hear . . . .” Our students are too sophisticated to be enamored with false compliments but, in what is too frequently MIT’s no-praise culture, they need to hear the faculty’s and administration’s applause when they have earned it.

MIT's first marching band was formed in 1978.

MIT’s first marching band was formed in 1978.

As the first housemaster of New House in the late 1970s, I witnessed several uniquely memorable events in MIT’s history.

Throughout weekends during that period, oversized—and I do mean oversized—audio speakers in Burton-Connor and elsewhere along Dorm Row bathed Briggs Field in Chuck Mangione’s “Feel So Good.”

In 1978, the MIT Football Club was founded and joined the National Club Football Conference, with the team ultimately becoming a varsity program and a member of the NCAA Division III in 1987.

The MIT Marching Band was also formed in 1978. Although I never saw more than six or seven members at any single time, I found them to be musically skillful and cleverly resourceful as I observed them practicing on Briggs Field. The band had no uniforms, and several of its members bristled at The Tech’s characterizations that they constituted a “spoof,” employed “haphazard formations,” and that their sundry shirts, shorts, and bell-bottom jeans were “random costumes.” Nevertheless, applying both Gaussian and Lévy distributions, I tried to write a manuscript using statistical analysis to describe the band’s marching formations, but my assumption of ergodicity was too constraining.

On Saturday, October 28, 1978, the MIT Football Club played, but lost, its only home game that year. (Actually, the team lost all its games that year.) The game also served as a campus-unifying Homecoming during which the MIT Marching Band performed. Another highlight of that festive day was the appearance of the reigning UMOC (Ugliest Man on Campus) who, as the Homecoming Queen, rode into Henry Steinbrenner Stadium on his “chariot” (a decaying flatbed covered with cardboard, depicting the urging “Go Tech”), waggling his “scepter” (a wooden walking cane), and bedecked in the queen’s pink cape and “crown” (part of a milk carton). I must confess: I adored him then and I have never forgotten him.

In 1978, MIT’s student body was at its sui generis best.

Read the full article in the MIT Faculty Newsletter.

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Photo: Nicole Morell

Photo: Nicole Morell

As the Boston area is blanketed with more than 80 inches of snow, many MIT alumni shared memories from other major snowstorms while students at the ‘tute.

On the Association’s Facebook page, Mike Harlan ’78 recalled Boston being shut down for a full week. “It’s the only time I’ve ever seen or heard of a snowplow being snowed-in, trapped in three to four feet of snow on all sides,” said Harlan.

Rosemary McNaughton ’97 remembers the Tennis Bubble collapsing on April Fool’s Day 1997, the first snow day for MIT since 1978. And Aisha Taylor ’00 added, “We thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke because MIT closed. There’s a snowflake on our Brass Rat because of it.”

Other alumni commented on the challenges of riding a unicycle over snow (Pete LaMaster SM ’79), a dramatic drag race on the Mass Ave bridge (Dan Swanson ’75), and the joys of seeing a Hawaiian roommate playing in the snow for the first time (John Vencill ’64, SM ’65).

Have an MIT snow story to add? Share it on our Facebook page or in the comments below.

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Taking part in a combined 22 missions, the six alumni astronauts interviewed by Slice of MIT are no strangers to space. Yet John Grunsfeld ’80, Dominic Antonelli ’89, Mike Fincke ’89, Franklin Chang-Diaz ScD ’77, Chris Cassidy SM ’00, and Mike Massimino SM ’88, ENG ’90, ME ’90, PhD ’92 are still in awe of the experience of looking back on Earth. “It’s so hard to put it in words,” shared Chris Cassidy.

In fact this group of MIT alumni astronauts hold a common memory—how moving it is to see your home planet in a new way. “The Earth…I think it might actually be paradise,” Massimino remembered. “It is very much the most beautiful thing you ever saw,” Chang-Diaz recalled in the video. The astronauts also discussed the thrill of takeoff, including last minute fears that they might not be headed to space after all. “All the way up to the final countdown, I thought they were going to open the hatch and say ‘Hey, we made a mistake, get out,’” Fincke recalled.

The six astronauts cover nearly 30 years of space missions. Chang-Diaz, who leads the group with seven missions, took his first space flight in 1986 as a member of STS 61-C (1986) aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. Cassidy bookends the group’s collection of missions with his 2013 trip to the International Space Station as part of Expedition 36.  Many of the astronauts said that whether it’s your first or seventh visit, the experience of space is spectacular each time.

Hear what each astronaut had to say about their missions and what it’s like to look back home from hundreds of miles away.

The video was produced by Alumni Association videographer Brielle Domings. 

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The April 9, 9, 1968 front page of The Tech.

The April 9, 1968 front page of The Tech.

On February 4, 2015, MIT will host its 41st annual Martin Luther King Celebration Luncheon, an MIT community event that celebrates King’s legacy and the Institute’s commitment to diversity.

Past luncheons have featured a traditional silent march that travels from Lobby 7 to Kresge Auditorium and past speakers have included King’s widow Coretta Scott King, who delivered the keynote address at the luncheon’s 20th anniversary celebration in 1994.

While King may have never made a public appearance at MIT, he was a common visitor to Cambridge from the 1950s—when he was a doctoral student at Boston University—until the mid-1960s.

According to a January 2013 article in the Harvard Gazette, King took philosophy courses at Harvard in 1952 and 1953 and he was a guest preacher at Harvard’s Memorial Church in 1959 and 1960. He delivered a lecture titled “The Future of Integration” at Harvard Law School in 1962 and spoke at Memorial Church and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School on the same day in January 1965.

Tech_March_23_1965

A Tech article from March 23, 1965. Click for larger image.

King’s name appears regularly in issues of The Tech in the 1960s, including:

After his assassination on April 4, 1968, the front pages of The Tech’s preceding two issues were dedicated to King and articles included “Faculty, students consider role of MIT in race problems” and  “(Professor Harold) Isaacs cites racism in murder.”

The archives at the King Center museum also include two letters to King from the MIT/Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies that discuss the center’s Social Statistics in the City conference that took place in June 1967.

According to a video by MIT Productions, King’s death directly led to, among other endeavors, the formation of the MIT Black Students’ Union and the creation of Interphase (now Interphase EDGE),  a seven-week summer program that prepared incoming students for the rigors of MIT.

For more information on King’s legacy at MIT, which includes the MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program, the MLK-Inspired IAP Design Seminar, and the MLK Leadership Award, visit diversity.mit.edu.

The 41st annual Martin Luther King Celebration Luncheon takes place Wednesday, February 4, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. in Walker Memorial. The event is open to the MIT community and features a keynote address from author and activist Rinku Sen. Find out more information and how to register.

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Cathleen Nalezyty ‘16 browses the MITSFS library.

Cathleen Nalezyty ‘16 browses the MITSFS library.

Brother Guy Consolmagno ’74, SM ’75, a Jesuit and an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, was a first-year student at Boston College when he first visited the MIT Science Fiction Society (MITSFS) library. He quickly transferred to MIT.

“Visiting that library for the first time was one of the greatest days of my life,” Consolmagno says. “Science fiction reminds you that science is fun—it’s the best adventure anyone could have. I asked myself, ‘How could I be anywhere else?’”

Located on the fourth floor of the Stratton Student Center, the MITSFS (pronounced mits-fiss) collection is one of the world’s largest public science fiction libraries—home to an estimated 90 percent of all English-language science fiction ever published. More than 45,000 books occupy less than 1,700 square feet of space; another 16,000 books sit in storage at an East Boston warehouse.

“Plus, we have complete runs of almost every science fiction magazine dating back to the 1920s,” says graduate student D. W. Rowlands, a MITSFS member. “Our library keeps growing. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s exhausting.”

The library’s collection includes mainstream titles like the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek novels, rare works like fanzines (fan-published magazines), and even a small collection of science fiction erotica magazines from the 1950s that are locked away from public view.

Early History

The society dates back to 1949, when Rudolf Preisendorfer ’52 and a group of like-minded students met to read his collection of Astounding Science Fiction magazines and later set out to collect back issues of other periodicals from the genre. A few years later, members began dragging a wooden crate filled with books between dorm rooms and the Spofford Room for meetings. (The crate is still on display at the MITSFS library.)

In the 1960s, the society grew and, under the leadership of a group that included Anthony Lewis ’61, L. Court Skinner ’62, SM ’64, PhD ’65, and Marilyn Wisowaty Niven ’62, eventually became a formal MIT club whose popularity spread beyond campus. Annual picnics were attended by well-known authors of popular science fiction.

“MITSFS was a big part of my undergraduate years—the picnics were huge events,” Skinner says. “Isaac Asimov was a great guy, but Hugo Gernsback was a bit of a curmudgeon.”

Skinner served as society president for three years. Today, the student leader of the MITSFS is known as the skinner, one of many distinctive titles that include lady high embezzler (treasurer) and onseck (honorable secretary).

“I certainly didn’t think that the title would last this long,” Skinner says. “But it’s an honor to have your name continue to be associated with MIT.”

Today’s MITSFS

MITSFS “skinner” D. W. Rowlands G holds the steel wrench that the society clanks to begin its weekly meetings.

MITSFS “skinner” D. W. Rowlands G holds the steel wrench that the society clanks to begin its weekly meetings.

The current-day MITSFS is open about 40 hours per week and holds weekly meetings, usually on Friday evenings, that members admit usually feature very little business. Each meeting begins with the clanking of a two-foot steel wrench onto a massive slab of titanium, and each member of the society, collectively known as Star Chamber, can vote up to four times (once per limb) on any issues brought to poll.

“There is definitely a social aspect, but we’re really just an awesome science fiction library,” says Alexandra Westbrook ’13. “Even if a book isn’t popular or well known, we have almost everything.”

In addition to a near-overflow of books, the library’s shelves are strewn with bizarre trinkets, including a collection of randomly placed toy bananas that no current member can explain.

“MITSFS has a lot of inside jokes that predate current students and, it seems, most alumni,” Rowlands says. “We definitely have an obsession with bananas, but no one seems to know why.”

Physical size remains MITSFS’s biggest issue—there are no plans expand the library. But the society continues to expand, thanks to active membership, a small endowment, and a boundless supply of both science fiction literature and readers at MIT.

Matching MIT’s Mission

“Science is the heart of science fiction, but the meat of it is engineering,” says Susan Shepherd ’11. “MITSFS keeps growing because of MIT’s central mission—explore science, push boundaries. Someone who wants to change the world—that’s the type of person who loves to read science fiction.”

MITSFS currently has about 300 dues-paying members, and Rowlands estimates that about 60 percent are current MIT students. Annual membership, which is open to the general public, starts at $15, but there are more expensive options, including a $260 lifetime membership and a $2,600 membership that transcends mortality.

“The real purpose of the $2,600 membership was a way for people to give to MITSFS and feel like they were getting something in return,” Rowlands says. “But if you die and come back undead or uploaded, you do have the option to maintain your membership.”

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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Slice of MIT Top Stories 2014

What do a Jeopardy! superstar, a battle of armrests, and fake MIT news from The Onion have in common? They’re all featured in Slice of MIT’s top 14 stories of 2014.

Relive all things quirky at MIT in 2014, including our most popular feature, the epic Hack Madness Tournament that named MIT’s hack of a 1982 hack of a Harvard-Yale game as the MIT’s community’s all-time favorite hack.

We hope Slice kept you entertained and informed in 2014. Thank you for reading. Happy New Year!

  1. The Harvard-Yale Football Game is MIT Hack Madness Champion: The game outlasted 31 MIT hacks, including the Caltech Cannon Heist.
  2. Ask an Engineer—How Do Birds Sit on Power Lines without Getting Electrocuted? There’s a reason you’ve never seen a bird straddle two wires.
  3. MIT Living Wage Calculator: Why Higher Wages Help Everybody: Showing the gap between the cost of necessities and the minimum wage.
  4. Waiting 37 Years for an MIT Degree: He now goes by Michael Zelin ’81.
  5. Welcoming the MIT 5: The Class of ’18 includes five pals from LA’s Polytechnic High.
  6. Ask an Engineer—Why is Speed at Sea Measured in Knots? Knots are the term for nautical speed. Why?
  7. Prepare for the Playoffs—An MIT Football Primer: A recap of the Engineers’ historic season.
  8. The Onion’s Best (Fake) Stories About MIT: More than 50 Onion stories mention MIT—here’s our 10 favorites.
  9. Record-Breaking MIT Alumna Questions the Jeopardy! Answers: Julia Collins’ 20 consecutive victories rank third-best all time.
  10. Ask an Engineer—Why Hasn’t Commercial Air Travel Gotten Any Faster Since the 1960s? Will we ever travel at supersonic speed?
  11. Armrest Wars—Designing an End to Elbow Battles: No more battles with a stranger for an armrest on a plane.
  12. Ask an Engineer—How do the Blades of a Jet Engine Start Turning? Here’s how commercial airlines start their engines.
  13. Who Coded Pied Piper for HBO’s Silicon Valley? Director Mike Judge relied on an alumnus’ algorithms to lend authenticity.
  14. Meet Elon Musk’s Top MIT Talent Many of his companies’ employees graduated from MIT.

Do you have a favorite MIT story from 2014? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The 2015 TIME magazine Person of the Year, who will be announced this morning, will not be an MIT alumnus. The magazine’s list of eight finalists, which were announced earlier this week, was narrowed down from a larger list that includes perennial nominees Benjamin Netanyahu ’75, SM ’76; Charles Koch ’57, SM ’58, SM ’60; and David Koch ’62, SM ’63.

In honor of today’s announcement, Slice is recalling the five alumni, scattered over a 50-year period, who have been previously named Persons of the Year.

2009: Ben Bernanke PhD ’79, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair

TIME_BernankeIn two terms Federal Reserve chair, Bernanke oversaw the government’s response to the late-2000s financial crisis. According to TIME, His leadership helped ensure that 2009 was a period of recovery rather than depression.

“The main reason Ben Shalom Bernanke is TIME’s Person of the Year for 2009 is that he is the most important player guiding the world’s most important economy. His creative leadership helped ensure that 2009 was a period of weak recovery rather than catastrophic depression, and he still wields unrivaled power over our money, our jobs, our savings and our national future.”

1996: Dr. David Ho, 1978 graduate of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, CEO and director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.

TIME_HoHo was honored for his contributions to the understanding and treatment of HIV and AIDS, and he and his staff’s research on antiretroviral therapy have led significant reductions in AIDS-associated mortality.

“Ho and his’ colleagues have demonstrated that this picture of the (AIDS) virus is wrong. There is no initial dormant phase of infection. Ho showed that the body and the virus are, in fact, locked in a pitched battle from the very beginning. At first many AIDS researchers found this hard to accept; it challenged some of their most cherished assumptions. If Ho was right, doctors would have to radically alter the way they treated AIDS.”

1960: American Scientists

TIME_ScientistThe multi-person list included Charles Stark Draper ’26, SM ’28, ScD ’38; William Shockley PhD ’36, Robert Woodward ’36, PhD ’37; and former professor and provost Charles Hard Townes.

“U.S. scientists and their colleagues in other free lands are indeed the true 20th  century adventurers, the explorers of the unknown, the real intellectuals of the day, the leaders of mankind’s greatest inquiry into the mysteries of matter, of the earth, the universe, and of life itself. Their work shapes the life of every human presently inhabiting the planet, and will influence the destiny of generations to come.”

For even more end-of-year rankings and awards, check out the Forbes 2014 list of the world’s most powerful people, which includes Netanyahu, the Kochs, and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi PhD ’77.

Is there MIT alumnus who has been named Person of the Year that Slice is missing? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

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