Most people associate the name Vannevar Bush with the development of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan during World War II. However, prior to the war, Vannevar Bush was one of the nation’s leading engineers and computer scientist pioneering the development of several analog computing projects. He was the first vice president and dean of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later president of the Carnegie Institution. Vannevar Bush was born March 11, 1890, in Everett, Massachusetts. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Tufts College. He received his doctorate in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1916.
His rise to prominence began with the invention of a simplistic analog computer the Profile Tracer, a surveying tool. Briefly, the profile tracer plotted the traverse of the land and reproduced it on paper. Over a nine-year period between 1922 and 1931, Bush was recognized by his peers for the invention of several electromechanical devices, which included the Product Intergraph an analog computer that could solve simple equations and the Differential Analyzer. Differential Analyzer or the Rockefeller Differential Analyzer (as it eventually became) was Bush’s attempt to reproduce or re-invent the Babbage Difference Engine (Redshaw, 1996). The Rockefeller Differential Analyzer was one of the most powerful analog computers ever built. It could solve differential equations with as many as 18 independent variables. The Rockefeller Differential Analyzer weighed 100-tons, contained 2000 vacuum tubes, and 150 electric motors.
Bush’s scientific success with analog computing, allowed him to become the chief scientific advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt. With Roosevelt’s backing, Bush was instrumental in mobilizing the United States’ scientific community prior to the outbreak of hostilities in World War II, in 1939.
At the behest of Vannevar Bush, President Roosevelt created the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), to organized, and coordinated federal government scientific research relating to national defense. A year later, Bush asked the President Roosevelt to create the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), which superseded the NDRC. As the primary administrator of the OSRD, Bush was instrumental in spearheading the Allies’ development of radar and the atomic before the Axis, Japan, and Germany.
The complete story of Vannevar Bush and the analog computer is found in the book A History of the Computer and Its Networks now available at these retailers Lambert Academic Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and More Books and other fine booksellers on the Internet worldwide.