Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Bush, Vannevar (1890–1974)

U.S. scientist who was involved with the manhattan project. Born on 11 March 1890, in Everett, Massachusetts, Vannevar Bush earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering at Tufts College before completing a joint doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. By 1932, he was dean of engineering at MIT. During World War I, he designed a device utilizing magnetic fields to detect submarines. The navy deemed it worthless for combat, which affected Bush's attitudes regarding the relationship between science and government. He was interested in machinery that would automate thinking, and by 1931, he had built the first electronic analogue computer to solve, at great speed, complex differential equations.

In 1938, Bush was selected as president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., his duties including advising the government on scientific research. He also was chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics from 1939 to 1941. During World War II, he worked to establish relationships between scientists and government officials regarding research resources, especially those concerning defense work. He emphasized the importance of technological innovation and proficiency to national security.

In June 1940, Bush presented President Franklin D. Roosevelt his ideas about the coordination of military research as a partnership of scientific, industrial, business, and government groups. This approach led to the establishment of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), with Bush as its director, in June 1941. In addition, Bush secured congressional funding to create the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which then oversaw the NDRC.

An adroit administrator, Bush became involved in significant technological developments, particularly in putting together a team for the manhattan Project as well as improving radar and developing radio-guided bombs. He also recruited civilian scientists to work on military projects. His July 1945 report, "Science: The Endless Frontier," advised President Harry S Truman regarding governmental peacetime development of science and technology. The 1950 National Science Foundation incorporated many of Bush's ideas for postwar science and government cooperation for basic research and education.

In 1945, Bush's Atlantic Monthly essay, "As We May Think," discussed the hypothetical "memex," a machine capable of information storage and retrieval with associative linking. This automatic technology would enable humans to augment their memory technically. Computer engineers later stated that Bush's ideas influenced their digital development of hypertext and the Internet. Bush published extensively. He died at Belmont, Massacusetts, on 28 June 1974.

Elizabeth D. Schafer


Further Reading
Bush, Vannevar. Modern Arms and Free Men: A Discussion of the Role of Science in Preserving Democracy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949.; Bush, Vannevar. Pieces of the Action. New York: William Morrow, 1970.; Kevles, Daniel K. The Physicists: The History of a Scientific Community in Modern America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.; Zachary, G. Pascal. Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.
 

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