Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


Buy at Amazon Kaiser, David. Becoming MIT: Moments of Decision. MIT Press, 2010. ISBN: 9780262113236.


The success of this course depends upon active student participation. A portion of the grade will therefore be based on participation and listening, preparation, collaboration, in-class assignments, and overall contribution to class discussions. Naturally, in order to participate, students must come to class on time and ready to discuss the readings and other materials.

Students will be required to submit brief reflections papers to the teaching staff via email by 5 PM the day before each class meeting for 8 of the 11 class sessions that include readings.

In addition to reading reflections, there are two major writing assignments. These assignments will be between 8 and 10 pages (no longer than 10 pages each), and will be based on materials from the syllabus, as well as students' own independent archival research in the many sources available at the Institute (such as the MIT Museum, the MIT Archives, the Tech Archives, and various library sources). Specific guidelines will be provided for each writing assignment with ample time to complete them. This course has no final exam.

Grades will be determined based on the following percentages:

First writing assignment 35%
Final writing assignment 35%
Reflection papers 20%
Class participation 10%


1 Introduction, Course Overview, What is Technology? Karen Arenson  
2 America in 1850: The Age of Transformation    
3 William Barton Rogers & The Foundational Years, 1861-1896    
4 Harvard, MIT, and Building a New Campus Mark Jarzombek  
5 MIT and the Corporate World in the Age of Big Business, 1890-1930 Ross Bassett  
6 World War I, the 1920s, and the 1930s Rosalind Williams  
7 Symposium: Leaders in Science and Engineering: The Women of MIT   First writing assignment due
8 Class Meets at MIT Museum    
9 Symposium: Computation and the Transformation of Practically Everything    
  Special Event: The Next Century Convocation    
10 World War II and the Aftermath    
11 Sputnik and the Cold War    
12 Aerospace and Computing in the 1960s, Lab Life in the 1970s, The Past Three Decades   Final writing assignment due