Vannevar Bush ( /væˈniːvɑr/ van-NEE-var; March 11, 1890 – June 28, 1974) was an American engineer, inventor and science administrator known for his work on analog computers, for his role as an initiator and administrator of the Manhattan Project, for founding Raytheon, and for the memex, an adjustable microfilm viewer with a structure analogous to that of the World Wide Web. In 1945, Bush published 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.
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 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 the Office of Scientific Research and Development (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, 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.
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“...I remembered the rose bush that had reached a thorny branch out through the ragged fence, and caught my dress, detaining me when I would have passed on. And again the symbolism of it all came over me. These memories and visions of the poorthey were the clutch of the thorns. Social workers have all felt it. It holds them to their work, because the thorns curve backward, and one cannot pull away.”
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