vannevar bush

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Vannevar Bush (/væˈnvɑːr/ van-nee-var; March 11, 1890 – June 28, 1974) was an American engineer, inventor and science administrator, who during World War II headed the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), through which almost all wartime military R&D was carried out, including initiation and early administration of the Manhattan Project. He is also known in engineering for his work on analog computers, for founding Raytheon,

and for the memex, a hypothetical adjustable microfilm viewer with a structure analogous to that of hypertext.


In 1945, Bush published the essay “As We May Think” in which he predicted that “wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified”. The memex influenced generations of computer scientists, who drew inspiration from its vision of the future. He was chiefly responsible for the movement that led to the creation of the National Science Foundation.

For his master’s thesis, Bush invented and patented a “profile tracer”, a mapping device for assisting surveyors. It was the first of a string of inventions. He joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1919, and founded the company now known as Raytheon in 1922. Starting in 1927, Bush constructed a differential analyzer, an analog computer with some digital components that could solve differential equations with as many as 18 independent variables. An offshoot of the work at MIT by Bush and others was the beginning of digital circuit design theory. Bush became vice president of MIT and dean of the MIT School of Engineering in 1932, and president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1938.

Bush was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1938, and soon became its chairman. As chairman of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), and later director of OSRD, Bush coordinated the activities of some six thousand leading American scientists in the application of science to warfare. Bush was a well-known policymaker and public intellectual during World War II, when he was in effect the first presidential science advisor. As head of NDRC and OSRD, he initiated the Manhattan Project, (Bush played a critical role in persuading the United States government to undertake a crash program to create an atomic bomb) and ensured that it received top priority from the highest levels of government. In Science, The Endless Frontier, his 1945 report to the President of the United States, Bush called for an expansion of government support for science, and he pressed for the creation of the National Science Foundation.


An offshoot of the work at MIT was the beginning of digital circuit design theory by one of Bush’s graduate students, Claude Shannon.

Turing‘s Shannon

Working on the analytical engine, Shannon described the application of Boolean algebra to electronic circuits in his landmark master’s thesis, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits. In 1935, Bush was approached by OP-20-G, which was searching for an electronic device to aid in codebreaking. Bush was paid a $10,000 fee to design the Rapid Analytical Machine (RAM). The project went over budget and was not delivered until 1938, when it was found to be unreliable in service. Nonetheless, it was an important step toward creating such a device.


…radio, atomic bomb, nsf, .. and even dawn of digital age

the ability to think straight in the midst of complexity

the war made bush a national feature

1945 – as we may think – mag article – imagining micro film machine.. memex.. searchable memory supplement.. to help cope with post war info explosion

machine which will supplement man’s thinking.. as great of an effect as invention of machine .. that gave mechanical power rather than power of muscles…

yes.. hosting life bits via self talk as data

building 13  -in his honor


adding page while reading Steven Johnson‘s emergence..

p 223

an appropriately stimulated immune system can tell the diff between two large foreign protein molecules composed of thousands of carbon atoms that differ by only a few degrees in the tilt of a single carbon chain. it can tell these molecules apart from all other molecules and retain the ability to do so once it has initially developed that ability. it has a memory… edelman 1992

because some of the cells have divided but not all the way to the antibody-making end, they constitute a lager group of cells in the total population of cells than were originally present. this larger group can respond at a later time in an accelerated fashion to the same antigen. ... the system .. exhibits a form of memory at the cellular level..

p 224

congeries of little cities, each with a certain degree of autonomy and self-sufficiency, each formed so naturally out of common needs and purposes that it only enriched and supplemented the whole.

division of town into quarters.. each w own churches/markets/water… but as town grew.. quarters became sixths.. or smaller… without dissolving into the mass.. this integration into primary residential units, composed of families and neighbors, was complemented by another kind of division, into precincts, based on vocation/interest: thus both primary and secondary groups, both geminschaft and gesellschaft, took on the same urban pattern… regensburg.. 11th cent… town divided into clerical/royal/merchant’s precinct.. while craftsmen and peasants much have occupied the rest of the town. mumford 1961

i am  using the word memory here in a more inclusive fashion than usual. memory is a process that emerged only when life and evolution occurred and gave rise to he systems described by the sciences of recognition. as i am using the term memory, it describes aspects of heredity, immune responses, reflex learning, true learning following perceptual categorization and the various form of consciousness….

..memory is an essential property of biologically adaptive systems. – edelman 1992

these economies come from the fact that the firm can find tin the large city all manner of client, services and suppliers, and employees no mater how specialized its product; this, in turn, promotes increased specialization…….

a key point about economies of agglomeration is that small businesses depend on them more than do large ones. the latter can internalize these ‘external economies’ by providing their own services and gain locational freedom as a result…

yes.. inequity.. not everyone getting a go (happens when os is money)

relationship between large cities and small businesses is a symbiotic one beneficial to both…. small firms are the major carriers of innovation, including creative adaptation to change

though the great city is the best organ of memory man has yet created, it is also – until it becomes too cluttered an *disorganized – the best agent for discrimination and **comparative evaluation,…

whoa..1\ *becomes disorganized.. – so that is our security against bias.. no? i’m hearing.. idiosyncratic jargon ness – ps in the open

whoa..2\ **comparative eval.. – so that’s our downfall.. no?.. civilize/organize.. in order to rate/segregate/label/… create winners/losers… put people on hold.. make many people small… et al..

p 225

decades before the first graphical interface was designed, wiener connected the problems of communal info and software interface, gesturing to vannevar bush’s visionary essay on the memex: on the other hand, the human organism contains vastly more info, in all probability, than does any one of its cells. there is thus no necessary relation in either direction between the amount of racial or tribal or community info and the amount of info available to the individual.. as in the case of the individual, not all the info which is available to he race at one time is accessible w/o special effort. there is a well-known tendency of libraries to become clogged by their own volume; of the sciences to develop such a degree of specialization that the expert is often illiterate outside his own minute specialty. dr vannevar bush has suggested the use of mechanical aids for the searching through vast bodies of material… wiener..