On April 10th, 1860, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded. Two days later, the Civil War begun.
Thus began the compelling address of Susan Hockfield, president of MIT and the latest presenter in the BPL Lowell Lecture series, “Remembering the Civil War.” Dr. Hockfield spoke this past week on the life of William Barton Rogers, founder and first president of MIT, and how his vision for a polytechnic institute was affected by the breakout of the Civil War. “[Rogers] was an intensely upright person and found the reality and politics of slavery appalling.” Despite the upheaval of war, Rogers and his ambition of bringing America into the 20th century through labor and industrialization was able to lead MIT through this difficult period in our nation’s history, and on to become what it is today: the manufacturer of some of our nation’s leading scientific and technological minds.
“As a nation, we cannot remain economically strong, we can’t continue to be intellectually vibrant, if we can’t make the products we invent here,” Dr. Hockfield said. “Rogers founded MIT in order to accelerate the industrialization of America, and we’re working on the same project today. It changes era by era, but it’s a place where I think MIT has served the nation well.”