Searchable MIT President’s Reports, 1872-2014

1872 MIT Presidents Report cover

Cover of the first MIT President’s Report, from 1872

In what started as an attempt to answer a question put to me by CMS/W head Ed Schiappa — “Who has MIT hosted as writers-in-residence over the years?” (turns out Michael Crichton was one of many great ones) — I’ve ended up creating the first one-stop searchable collection of every MIT President’s Report…

…all 57,000 pages of them, going back to 1872. It’s worth noting that each of these documents have been in separate searchable PDFs and HTML files, but this is the first time they have been aggregated into a single document — one needn’t run nearly 140 separate searches for the same term. That’s especially important for reports after 2003, which had their sections broken out into dozens of separate PDFs.

Two 1.5GB files are now available for download:

Background

Every summer (roughly), MIT units are asked to write up their activities from the previous year, what ultimately becomes the “President’s Report”: http://web.mit.edu/annualreports. I scraped the files from the Annual Reports site and combined the reports into a single document, making a way to search for terms across the entire corpus back to 1872.

Check it out. Reading a unit’s portion in the reports over time gives some fascinating insights into its — and the Institute’s — evolution. You see MIT’s realtime role in World War II, the mounting pressure for gender equality, its modernization of fundraising methods, and — in what’s huge this year — the nitty gritty of its move 100 years ago from Boston to Cambridge.

Viz.:

  1. The word nuclear maps to the rise of German nuclear research in the 1930’s, but formal funding (and a Ph.D. program) for nuclear research starts in 1942 — the year America launched the Manhattan Project.
  2. An institutional concern with gender (that word specifically) first appears in 1978, in response to University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action. Yet it’s not until the ’80s that a department — the MIT Department of Architecture — appears to be the first to go a step further, stating explicitly that lack of gender and racial diversity is hurting the quality of its instruction. (I’m curious to hear if, as one might assume, there’s documentation of this concern prior to the ’80s outside the President’s Reports, perhaps in The Tech’s archives.)
  3. The first endowment fundraising campaign did really, really well: it brought in $100,116,402 in 2016 dollars. Yet it wasn’t until 1968 that MIT decided to fundraise year-round instead of simply through occasional campaigns.
  4. The 1912 and 1916 reports show that MIT’s move to Cambridge from Boston almost didn’t happen, that it depended on securing assistance from the state of Massachusetts in order to receive matching funds from U.S. senator and MIT alum Coleman du Pont to actually purchase the 50 acres from the City of Cambridge. I had to laugh at the line describing the way MIT overcame opposition to the move (emphasis mine): “…numerous petitions [to the City of Cambridge] had been received from prominent business men and organizations in Cambridge, not especially interested in education, urging the Institute to go there…”

It’s a complete rabbit hole, and if you find yourself with a quiet hour or two, jump in. What do you find?

Andrew Whitacre

About Andrew Whitacre

Andrew conducts the communications efforts for CMS/W and its research groups. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.

 
 

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