MIT 150

150 fascinating, fun, important, interesting, lifesaving, life-altering, bizarre and bold ways that MIT has made a difference

Globe Staff Writers Sam Allis, Hiawatha Bray, Scott Helman, And Carolyn Johnson, And Globe Contributors Scott Kirsner, Karen Weintraub, And Michael Blanding / May 15, 2011

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Some were invented at MIT. Others were simply inspired by time spent at MIT. But all of them (well, maybe not #150) have had a profound impact, in one way or another, on society, culture, politics, economics, transportation, health, science, and, oh yes, technology. In the 150 years since the Commonwealth approved a charter by William Barton Rogers to incorporate the “Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Society of Natural History” (the Civil War delayed its first classes until 1865), MIT has established itself as the place where great ideas are born.

Number 1: World Wide Web Consortium

The first sentence on the first World Wide Web site had to explain to visitors what exactly this thing was. It described the Web as a “wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.” Oh. Nobody could have imagined that would one day include classified war documents, videos of talking dogs, and the ability to stream movies and instant message with friends. Tim Berners-Lee, the soft-spoken Briton who invented the Web in 1989 while working at a particle physics lab in Geneva, came to MIT in 1994 to help create the World Wide Web Consortium, to help spread technical standards for building websites, browsers, and devices (like televisions) that offer access to Web content. His greatest act of all was actually something he didn’t do: patent his invention or extract licensing fees from those who used his ideas – decisions that helped the Web go global in a few years. “The thing spread largely because I didn’t make World Wide Web Incorporated in 1991,” Berners-Lee has said. When Queen Elizabeth II knighted Berners-Lee, he said it showed that great things could happen to ordinary people who took on projects that “happen to work out.”

Number 2: Mapping the body

Remember the Human Genome Project – the first-ever map of our genetic code – in 2000? J. Craig Venter claimed the glory. But a squad led by MIT’s Eric Lander sequenced one-third of it. While most geneticists hunted for each gene they thought was involved in a disease, Lander used fast computers to search for dozens of abnormal genes in a diseased cell. This process has led to the discovery of a whole set of clues to disease. Lander also helped create the Broad Institute, a consortium of MIT, Harvard, and other scientists, now on the cutting edge of genomics research.

Number 3: Transistor radio

Considered by some to be the most important invention of the 20th century, the solid-state transistor was born at Bell Labs in New Jersey. One of the three Nobel Prize laureate inventors was William Shockley, who earned his doctorate at MIT in 1936. Among the first products to take advantage of transistors were hearing aids, portable radios, and televisions.

Number 4: Send. Reply. Delete.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson, an MIT alum working at Bolt Beranek and Newman, a Cambridge consulting firm founded by other MIT alums, sent the first e-mail between two computers on the Arpanet (the Internet’s predecessor). He picked the @ to separate the user’s name from the computer “host” where he could be reached. When Tomlinson showed his e-mail system to another BBN employee, he reportedly said: “Don’t tell anyone! This isn’t what we’re supposed to be working on.”

Number 5: Birth of biotech

If we have anyone to thank for helping take advanced medical research into our lives, it’s probably Phillip A. Sharp. A leader in cancer research at MIT for three decades, he helped found Biogen (now Biogen Idec), one of the first and now the oldest independent biotech firm in the world. Biogen has developed treatments for hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer, among other diseases.

Number 6: The minicomputer

Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, who worked at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in the 1950s, formed a start-up called Digital Equipment Corp. in 1957 to build what they called “interactive minicomputers,” which would be smaller and less expensive than mainframes and designed with business use in mind. Digital’s first minicomputer, the PDP-1, sold for $120,000 and came standard with 9K of internal memory. Digital became the second-biggest tech company in the world at one point, after IBM Corp.

Number 7: The new robots

When they started iRobot Corp. in 1990, MIT grads Helen Greiner and Colin Angle knew they wanted to build robots; they’d figure out their business model later. Did they ever. The Roomba vacuum arrived in 2002, the first truly functional robot to find its way into American households. Last year it earned iRobot more than $400 million in revenue. On a more serious note, iRobot developed a reconnaissance robot for the military. PackBot acts as eyes and ears for troops and neutralizes roadside bombs, screens vehicles and people for devices, and goes into caves. iRobot has built about 3,500 PackBots for US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Number 8: Drink up

Healthy eating and clean drinking water have been issues of concern a lot longer than you realize. MIT home economics pioneer Ellen Swallow Richards (1842-1911) was an expert in the preparation of nutritious foods and led the first survey of water quality in America. The survey prompted Massachusetts to establish the first water-quality standards and municipal sewage treatment plant in the country. Richards was also the first woman admitted to MIT, its first female instructor, the foremost female industrial and environmental chemist of her era, and a huge advocate of educating women in science.

Number 9: Bose

MIT electrical engineering professor Amar Bose had a simple mission in 1964: design a stereo speaker that could come closer to reproducing the sound of a live musical performance. His company led the rush to create dozens of game-changing products, from noise-canceling headphones to a better bedside alarm clock. Its newest product is a flat-panel TV that eliminates the need for external speakers. Bose donated most of his stock to MIT last month making MIT the company’s majority owner. Bose has more than $1.8 billion in annual revenues and about 8,000 employees.

Number 10: Where am I?

Like knowing where you’re going? Ivan Getting founded the Aerospace Corp. A 1933 graduate, he designed radar systems at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory during World War II and later worked at Raytheon Co. He was also one of the developers (and major advocates, in the face of Pentagon resistance) of a satellite-based global positioning system for navigation. You know it as GPS.

Number 11: Father of biology

Salvador Luria (1912-1991) is considered one of the fathers of modern biology. He also founded the MIT Center for Cancer Research in 1974, now the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Luria received the Nobel Prize for research on viruses that infect bacteria, showing that viruses are subject to Darwinian theories of evolution. He was also a mentor and leader in the scientific community, hiring and training James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA).

Number 12: Key to the Kindle

Love your Kindle? Thank MIT. Media Lab associate professor Joseph Jacobson is a cofounder of E Ink Corp., the company that produces the highly readable black-and-white screens found on many electronic books, including’s popular eBook reader. Now owned by a Taiwanese technology firm, E Ink is making life miserable for the printed word, while preserving the written word in the digital age.

Number 13: The spreadsheet

Dan Bricklin was sitting in a classroom at Harvard Business School when he had this idea to create an “electronic spreadsheet” or “Calcu-ledger” – a way for managers to do complex accounting using a computer or project how their revenues might grow under different scenarios. Bricklin, a 1973 MIT graduate, and fellow MIT alum Bob Frankston rented time late at night on an MIT mainframe computer (it cost $1 an hour to use) to write the program that would become VisiCalc. It led to programs like Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel.

Number 14: The Internet never forgets

Why shouldn’t someone be storing a copy of the evolving Web as a historical reference? Brewster Kahle, a 1982 MIT computer science graduate, began building the Internet Archive in 1996, collecting Web pages, as well as television broadcasts, movies, and even bootleg recordings of Grateful Dead concerts – a kind of shadow Library of Congress solely interested in collecting digital materials.

Number 15: Heavy traffic

In the late 1990s, Daniel Lewin and his MIT faculty adviser, math professor Tom Leighton, devised a model for speeding up the movement of large quantities of data over the Internet. Their work became the foundation for Akamai Technologies Inc., the Cambridge company that today handles up to 30 percent of the world’s Internet traffic. Lewin became a billionaire. But on Sept. 11, 2001, he was on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. He was 31.

Number 16: Before Google

Perhaps Google owes a debt to MIT professor and administrator Vannevar Bush. Bush, who also served as a science adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, conceived of a database-like device that would store all of an individual’s books and correspondence and let that person search it instantly. The memex, wrote Bush, would be an “intimate supplement to his memory.” (Just like searching your Gmail account for that to-do list your spouse sent you last month).

Number 17: That’s cool

If your office temperature is always comfortable, you might thank Pietro Belluschi. The dean of MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning from 1951-65, he designed the Equitable Building (later named the Commonwealth Building), a sleek office space in Portland, Ore., that was completed in 1948. Wrapped in aluminum, it was the first large commercial building in the country to be fully air-conditioned. It also was the first to have double-glazed glass windows, which helped reduce glare from the sky and, therefore, controlled solar heat better.

Number 18: Protect yourself

An approach to sending secure digital messages – like using your credit card number with an e-commerce site – was developed in 1977 by a trio of MIT professors: Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman. RSA (the initials of each of their last names) cryptography uses a “public key,” which can be known to anyone, to encrypt messages and a “private key,” which only the recipient has, to decrypt them. The trio eventually sold RSA Security to EMC Corp. for $2.1 billion.

Number 19: Black box

Before World War II, pilots couldn’t figure out where they were without someone’s help. Aviation pioneer Charles “Doc” Draper, who earned three degrees from MIT, insisted against prevailing wisdom that everything a plane needed to fly could be put into a “black box.” Using a complex combination of spinning gyroscopes and sophisticated computer calculations, the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory he established created the first “inertial guidance system,” flying from Hanscom Air Force Base to Los Angeles on the provenance of instruments alone. It was critical for airplane flight and for a precise piloting system for ballistic missiles, and it made the Apollo space missions possible.

Number 20: Movies in color

The process that brought colors to movie screens was invented by a company founded in 1915 by Herbert Kalmus, MIT class of 1904. A high school dropout who worked as a carpet salesman, Kalmus joined with another MIT graduate, Daniel Comstock, to launch a company called Technicolor Corporation. So began a 20-year-long effort to create high-quality color films. The 1935 film “Becky Sharp” was the first full-length three-color movie; five years later, Technicolor won an Oscar for the color photography in “Gone With the Wind.” And, yes, the “tech” in Technicolor was Kalmus’s tip of the hat to his alma mater.

Number 21: Soup, anyone?

The Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Co. of Camden, N.J., had been canning fruits, vegetables, and soups long before John T. Dorrance came along in 1897. But Dorrance, armed with a bachelor’s from MIT and a doctorate from University of Gottingen in Germany, found that using less water in the soup gave it a more concentrated flavor. The customer would then simply open the can, pour the contents into a saucepan, add water, and heat it up. The idea was so successful that the business changed its name to Campbell Soup Co.

Number 22: Understanding AIDS

David Baltimore received a Nobel Prize in 1975 for his discovery of reverse transcription. That’s the process that certain viruses – notably the one that causes AIDS – use to hijack people’s cells. His discovery upended the central dogma of molecular biology and laid the groundwork for the first drugs 20 years later that transformed AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable disease.

Number 23: Understanding cancer

Scientists long believed there was a link between human cancer and genes, but biologist Robert Weinberg, who in 1982 cofounded the Whitehead Institute at MIT, proved it by showing that bladder cancer in people was caused by the same genetic process as a genetically triggered cancer in rats. He also discovered the first gene known to turn off cancer, and he outlined the six hallmarks of all cancers, effectively establishing a common definition that could be shared by scientists across the world.

Number 24: Got (pasteurized) milk?

William Thompson Sedgwick (1855-1921) is considered the “architect of public health and sanitary engineering in America.” A professor at MIT for more than 30 years, he helped establish sanitary engineering as a profession in the United States by helping to launch the nation’s first public-health school, a Harvard-MIT effort that is now the Harvard School of Public Health. He was an early advocate of the need to pasteurize milk and to add chlorine to drinking water to kill bacteria.

Number 25: Executive branch

Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the chief executive of General Motors Co., had a problem. He saw many promising would-be executives in his company but didn’t know how to train them. So in the early 1930s, he came to MIT, his alma mater, and asked for help. MIT accepted the challenge and devised an experiment in executive education, inviting a small group of fellows from various companies to spend an intensive year of business and leadership training on campus. Now called the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership, it has been copied elsewhere and many of its most famous graduates are on this list for their achievements in business.

Number 26: HP

William Reddington Hewlett, the cofounder of Hewlett-Packard Development Co., earned his master’s in engineering from MIT in 1936.

Number 27: BigDog

The star of what may be MIT’s most popular YouTube video is a four-legged, gas-guzzling robot intended to serve as a pack animal for the military. More than 11 million people have watched BigDog climb a wooded hill, shuffle through deep snow, slip on ice, and deftly recover when knocked over. (It uses global positioning system coordinates to navigate.) Designed by Marc Raibert, who in 1980 founded MIT’s Leg Lab to help robots mimic human walking, and his team at Boston Dynamics, BigDog holds the record for distance traveled by a legged vehicle: nearly 13 miles. The project is funded by the Department of Defense, which recently gave Raibert’s company a grant to develop Cheetah, a robot that could run faster than 20 miles per hour

Number 28: iWalk

As a teenager, MIT professor Hugh Herr was caught in a blizzard while climbing Mount Washington. He lost both legs below the knee to frostbite. His Cambridge start-up, iWalk, has spent the last five years developing the world’s most advanced prosthetic foot. iWalk’s PowerFoot BiOM device requires less effort to walk on than a traditional prosthetic, by storing energy as you walk and releasing it at the right point in your stride. The first devices were shipped to Walter Reed Army Medical Center earlier this year, and a wide release is planned for 2012.

Number 29: Well Refined

Solar, windmills, and biofuels might be the future, but oil is still the present. It was MIT professors in the 1930s who led the way in figuring out how to efficiently separate, or “crack,” that soupy mess into molecules and essentially create the modern-day oil industry. The pioneers included H.C. Weber, Herman P. Meissner, and longtime MIT chemical engineering professor Hoyt C. Hottel.

Number 30: Genentech is born

Robert A. Swanson, a 1969 MIT graduate, cofounded biotech giant Genentech Inc. in 1976 at age 29 and helped launch the biotech revolution.

Number 31: Sun house

The first house to be completely powered by the sun was built on the MIT campus in 1939. Called Solar 1, it was built under the direction of chemical engineering professor Hoyt. C. Hottel, who employed a “sun trap,” a box with a copper sheet painted black under three panes of glass on the roof, to collect the sun’s rays. Some of the principles from Solar 1 are just now being incorporated by the Department of Energy in its own solar research.

Number 32: Drill, baby, drill

Back in the day, the techniques for finding new oil deposits were simple: Drill hole. If you didn’t find anything, move over and repeat. In 1948, MIT researchers were among the first to apply modern scientific analysis to reports of seismic activity to create a chance above a “shot in the dark” in hitting pay dirt. Formalized as the Geophysical Analysis Group in 1952, the collaboration spurred the “digital revolution” in oil prospecting.

Number 33: 1, 2, 3, go!

In 2001,Yet-Ming Chiang, an MIT materials science professor, created high-powered lithium-ion batteries with five times the power as before. Incorporated as A123 Systems in 2002 with the help of Boston-area entrepreneur Desh Deshpande, Chiang’s company was successful out of the box – signing deals to power everything from Black & Decker power tools to electric cars in China to power plants in Chile.

Number 34: Birth of the iPod... and more

As an MIT doctoral student in the early 1950s, Robert Noyce was known as “Rapid Robert” for his quick mind. As a cofounder of Intel Corp., he was known as the “Mayor of Silicon Valley.” A mentor to Apple’s Steve Jobs, Noyce is one of those credited as the inventor of the first practical integrated circuit, a.k.a. the “microchip” – which made modern-day computers possible. Without that, no iPod.

Number 35: Groundbreaker

Katharine Dexter McCormick, a biologist who funded research for “The Pill” in the early 1900s, was the second woman to graduate from MIT, in 1904.

Number 36: PET scans

A 7-year-old daughter of a chicken farmer is an unlikely candidate to contribute to the history of medicine, but in 1953, when Holly Jane Hyde showed problems reading and understanding speech, her Massachusetts General Hospital neurosurgeon tried a newfangled device invented by MIT physicist Gordon Brownell. Injecting radioactive arsenic into her brain, her doctor discovered a previously unknown tumor. After surgery, the girl recovered – and the positron emission tomography scan, now a standard procedure in neuroscience, was born.

Number 37: Zipcar

Robin Chase, an entrepreneur trained at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, made not owning a car the club people wanted to join. Chase has moved on, but Zipcar, created in 2000, has grown to a fleet of 8,000 with 550,000 members in 60 cities.

Number 38: Virtually there

Rather than try to make money by teaching students from afar, MIT leaders in 2002 began providing free access to course materials to anyone, anywhere, who wanted to learn. The OpenCourseWare website inspired other universities to follow, and today anyone with a Web connection can access rich materials – and in some cases videos of the lectures – for more than 2,000 MIT courses. It’s estimated they’ve reached 100 million people; they’re shooting for 1 billion. Two entrepreneurs in Haiti learned from MIT how integrated circuits work and installed solar-powered street lamps in some of the country’s poorest areas.

Number 39: Future of cars

If we ever see cars that get 100 miles per gallon, it will most likely be thanks to researchers at MIT’s Sloan Automotive Lab, an incubator for improvements in car engines for half a century. Under recent director John Heywood – called “the Yoda of cars” by some – researchers have developed a low-cost method for injecting small amounts of ethanol at crucial times into the engine to dramatically improve fuel performance – by 20 to 30 percent.

Number 40: Personal computing

What if every child in the world had a laptop? A few years back, it would have seemed a ridiculous question. Nicholas Negroponte and the MIT Media Lab are making it possible. He set out in 2005 to design a radically less expensive computer to distribute worldwide. His nonprofit, One Laptop per Child, says 2 million children in 31 countries, from Peru to Mongolia, are using its stripped-down PCs. The organization, which has yet to get the price down to $100, is now working on a tablet computer.

Number 41: The Bomb

Manson Benedict, an MIT graduate researcher during World War II, discovered the process that ultimately led to the creation of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and the peaceful application of nuclear energy for decades after.

Number 42: What’s the “big” idea

Alan Guth, an MIT physicist, in 1981 came up with the inflation theory about the universe to answer puzzling questions created by the big bang theory.

Number 43: Urban legend

Kevin Lynch, an MIT urban design professor, wrote the 1960 book, “The Image of the City,” which helped launch the argument against major government urban-renewal programs by encouraging greater citizen participation.

Number 44: Engineered for success

In many ways, MIT pioneered the very idea of a polytechnical institute, showing the world that math and science should be at the core of an undergraduate education and that engineering would be critical in the development of the country. MIT pioneered curriculums in electrical engineering (1882), aeronautical engineering (1914), and nuclear physics (1935), among others. “It was the right institution at the right time and the right place that understood the importance of engineering, which was going to be crucial to the industrial transformation of the United States,” says John Thelin, author of “A History of American Higher Education.”

Number 45: E*Trade

William A. Porter, who helped revolutionize digital stock trading with the founding of E*Trade, graduated from MIT’s Sloan Fellows Program.

Number 46: Good neighbor

If Kendall Square were a suburban office park, it would be one of the most high-powered ones in the world. Who’s got offices there? Akamai. Amgen. Biogen Idec. Draper Laboratory. Fidelity Investments. Genzyme. Google. Microsoft. Novartis. Not to mention, of course, the magnet for all of them: MIT. The Kendall Square Association has 130 members, and MIT is the linchpin that helped build up one of the most innovative neighborhoods in the country. More than half of Cambridge’s tax revenue comes from Kendall Square, and most of the city’s largest taxpayers are there.

Number 47: Calculated gifts

After amassing a fortune as a cofounder of Texas Instruments, with its ubiquitous calculators, Cecil H. Green made major gifts to institutions of higher education and medicine. Green, who earned two degrees from MIT in the 1920s, gave handsomely to his alma mater. At the time of his death in 2003, MIT said, Green and his wife, Ida, had given the equivalent of $91 million in current US dollars. (The tallest MIT building is named for the Greens.) One of his priorities was educating women; he funded a women’s graduate residence hall and fellowships for women in science and engineering.

Number 48: Radar detectives

It is sometimes said the atomic bomb ended World War II, but radar won the war. Much of that technology came from MIT’s Radiation Laboratory – intentionally given a misleading moniker to divert attention away from the lab’s true focus, on microwave radar technology development. Its contributions included airborne-bombing radar, a long-range navigation system, coastal defense radars, and early-warning radars. After the war ended, the Rad Lab closed. Seven years later, Lincoln Laboratory was founded, based on many of the same organizational principles and with many of the same employees.

Number 49: Tunnel vision

Wind tunnels have a long history at MIT, from helping understand why the windows fell out of the Hancock tower in downtown Boston to airplane testing. The first wind tunnel, built in 1896, was primitive – it utilized MIT’s hot-air heating system. Subsequent tunnels were more sophisticated. The Wright Brothers Memorial Wind Tunnel was built in 1938 and used for industrial design and testing during World War II. It was later used to understand the aerodynamics of big buildings and entire cityscapes. The tunnels have helped us understand the aerodynamic aspects of Olympic ski gear, spacesuits, and subway station entrances.

Number 50: Close shave

When King Gillette needed someone to help produce his disposable-blade safety razor idea he turned to MIT trained inventor William Nickerson. They formed the American Safety Razor Co. in 1901. Today, it’s Gillette.

Number 51: Building block

In 1868, MIT created the first architecture program in the country (it became a school in 1932). In a field where Americans typically felt inferior to Europeans, MIT’s program offered the chance for young architects to train domestically, and it represented an important statement of cultural confidence. The School of Architecture has a number of notable alumni, including skyscraper pioneer Cass Gilbert (1880), I.M. Pei (1940), and Charles Correa (1955), a leading designer of low-cost housing in Third World countries.

Number 52: Chief engineer

Robert S. Langer Jr. holds more than 750 patents and pending patents and is the most cited engineer in history. MIT’s David H. Koch Institute Professor profoundly changed the way drugs are delivered to our system and how tissue is made.

Number 53: Peacemaker

Kofi Annan, an alumnus of the Sloan School of Management, was the secretary general of the United Nations and the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Number 54: Breaking Ground

When he graduated from MIT’s architecture program in 1892, Robert R. Taylor was the first professionally educated African-American architect in the country (not to mention being the first African-American to graduate from MIT). While in Boston, he met Booker T. Washington, founder of what is now Tuskegee University, who offered him a faculty job there. Taylor accepted and later founded Tuskegee’s Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science. It has produced many practicing African-American architects across the country.

Number 55: I.M. Famous

I. M. Pei , the celebrated architect, graduated from MIT in 1940 before sliding down the river to attend Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Some of Pei’s most prominent works include the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Bank of China headquarters in Hong Kong, and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. Though not his most celebrated works, his local projects are a huge part of Boston culture, especially the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Number 56: Way out there

During the Apollo 11 mission, the world watched astronauts’ bold, small steps open a new frontier in exploration and the public imagination. But to several hundred engineers in Cambridge, the Apollo missions were tense times when the guidance, navigation, and control systems that were designed and developed at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory underwent the ultimate test of guiding men to the moon. The lab, founded by Charles Stark Draper in 1932, was spun off from MIT in 1973 as Draper Laboratory, largely because of student protests against classified research taking place on campus. Draper’s technologies have been important in missile guidance for submarine and land-based ballistic missiles and are now being used to tackle problems in biomedical research.

Number 57: Anything but little

Arthur D. Little, an MIT chemist in the 1880s, founded the nation’s first management consulting firm in 1886.

Number 58: Pedal forward

t might be the smartest bicycle wheel ever. In 2009, a team from MIT’s SENSEable City Lab unveiled the Copenhagen Wheel. Its large red hub stores the energy derived from braking. That energy is used for future pedaling, up a hill for example, like a hybrid car. Using sensors and a Bluetooth connection to the user’s iPhone, the wheel monitors speed, direction, and distance and collects data on air pollution. The phone can lock the bike, change gears, and select how much the motor assists you. Production could begin next year, another step toward increasing bicycle use in cities.

Number 59: Win $100,000!

The $100K Entrepreneurship Competition starts with $5,000 to the team that best summarizes its business idea in 60 seconds or less. It finishes when the team with the best business plan takes home $100,000. “The competition isn’t about starting a company at all,” says Joost Bonsen, an MIT lecturer who was part of the first contest as a student, in 1990. “It’s about educating people about being entrepreneurial.” It has led to the founding of more than 150 companies, including Akamai Technologies Inc., which today has 2,200 employees, and insulin developer SmartCells Inc., which Merck & Co. Inc. acquired last year for $500 million.

Number 60: Origami rises up

It’s hard to imagine the art of folding paper, or origami, having wide-scale implications to the way we live. But Erik Demaine, an MIT computer science professor, won a 2003 MacArthur Fellowship for some pioneering ideas about the importance of understanding folding and bending. The more we know about folding and bending, the more we can improve everything from robotic arms to hydraulic tubes. Demaine’s artwork was recently selected to appear as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s 40 Under 40: Craft Futures exhibition.

Number 61: Taking stock

MIT economists Myron Scholes and Robert Merton were two primary contributors (along with Fischer Black) in 1973 to what’s known as the Black-Scholes Model. It’s still used to determine the fair price of call options in a stock market or stock options given to employees of a public company. MIT professor Peter Diamond says Black-Scholes helped lead to the creation of more complex derivatives, which played a role in the recent financial crisis. But Scholes has said there is a positive side, as well, to the model: “It can be used to measure risk and transfer risk.”

Number 62: Guessing games

MIT professor Paul Samuelson said that today’s price of a given stock really is the best estimate of its actual value – and that money managers hunting for undervalued or overvalued securities are usually wrong. Samuelson was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics. He was also an economics adviser to several presidents, starting with Kennedy. “Paul Samuelson was one of the first people to realize that maybe there wasn’t any predictability of stock prices,” says MIT professor James Poterba.

Number 63: Understanding unemployment

How can employees be looking for jobs while job openings that suit them exist at the same time? MIT professor Peter Diamond’s work tries to answer that question. “It takes time to find a job and for a company to find a worker,” says Diamond, who received a Nobel Prize, “but the second thing, which is terribly important, is that as a worker, you don’t know all of your options, and you don’t know what vacancies are going to open up the next month or the month after.” Diamond helped explain why the unemployment rate won’t budge when some companies have vacancies they’re trying to fill.

Number 64: Can we all agree?

The Washington Consensus was a term coined by MIT-educated economist John Williamson in 1989 to cover a set of 10 policy positions that D.C.-based institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund pursued in the 1980s and ’90s toward developing countries. Among them: competitive exchange rates, less protectionist trade policies, and the privatization of state-run businesses.

Number 65: Idea + money = ?

Even the best research universities sometimes run into brick walls trying to turn laboratory science into usable products. At MIT, the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, funded with an initial gift of $20 million from a philanthropist, specifically focuses on connecting researchers with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The center has backed more than 80 projects, and 23 have developed into commercial opportunities, from Internet search engines to new solar cells.

Number 66: Touch this

In 1963, the idea of a computer responding instantly to something a nonprogrammer did to it was still a bit fantastic. Sketchpad, created by MIT doctoral student Ivan Sutherland, was the first “graphical user interface,” inviting users to draw geometric objects on a computer screen with a light pen. Sketchpad was a key step toward making computers more usable, as well as computer-assisted drafting, or CAD, software that engineers use to design everything from lawn furniture to jet engines.

Number 67: X-rays

William David Coolidge, an 1896 MIT graduate, was an American physicist who made major contributions to X-ray machines and was director of the General Electric Research Laboratory.

Number 68: Whirlwind

When the military wanted to build a flight simulator to train World War II-era bomber crews, MIT got the contract. Whirlwind took a team of 175 people three years to build; when finished, it relied on about 4,500 vacuum tubes, and it was the first computer to use video displays (rather than paper printouts or flashing lights) for data output. It is considered the progenitor of the mainframes and minicomputers that businesses began to use in the 1960s.

Number 69: Kismet

Sporting rubbery red lips, pig-like pink ears, and big ping-pong ball eyes, Kismet was a robot designed to engage with humans. Begun in 1997 by Cynthia Breazeal, Kismet relied on microphones and cameras to collect information about the world around it, following an object with its head and eyes or responding to a scolding tone of voice with its own vocalizations or facial expressions. “Kismet wasn’t about creating a friendly robot,” says Rodney Brooks, former head of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. “It was about understanding the intent of the machine.”

Number 70: Just the fax

Shintaro “Sam” Asano, a Fulbright scholar at MIT in 1959, once said his professors encouraged him to take risks and test new theories: “I was immersed in a free-thinking atmosphere,” he said. Perhaps that explains why years later, while working as a National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer, when he struggled to explain a complicated camera over the phone to a colleague who had a heavy Southern accent, Asano had an idea. He wished he could just draw a picture and send it instantly. While American businesses weren’t initially interested in Asano’s digital fax machine technology, it was licensed by NTT, a major Japanese telecommunications company, and took off there first. Why? It was faster to write down Japanese kanji characters and fax the message than to type messages on a teletypewriter.

Number 71: Eliza

“I need some help, that much seems certain.” “What would it mean to you if you got some help?” “Perhaps I could learn to get along with my mother.” “Tell me more about your family.” Written in the mid-1960s by MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum, Eliza was one of the first computer programs to convey a semblance of “humanness”; many people who engaged in dialogues with Eliza believed – for a few volleys, at least – they were interacting with a human therapist. The next time you type a question into Google and it finds the help you need, thank Eliza.

Number 72: Taking off

Donald Douglas and James McDonnell, both MIT alums, cofounded McDonnell Douglas (which merged with Boeing in 1997), one of the world’s biggest aerospace manufacturers.

Number 73: That other computer jack

When Wi-Fi isn’t available, reliable, or secure enough, computer users who need to connect turn to Ethernet – that jack on your computer that’s slightly too big for a telephone plug. It was co-invented by Bob Metcalfe, an MIT alum who now serves on the university’s board of trustees and who founded the company 3Com Corp. to sell Ethernet networking equipment.

Number 74: Big doings at BB&N

Bolt Beranek & Newman, a Cambridge firm founded in 1948 by two MIT faculty members, worked on the acoustical design of the United Nations’ General Assembly Hall, studied the vibration of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mercury capsule during launch, and analyzed the 18 minutes of tape that President Nixon’s secretary accidentally erased, as well as a recording of President Kennedy’s assassination. It also designed much of the early hardware for the Arpanet (a Pentagon-funded computer network that predated the Internet) and helped America Online build out its infrastructure as AOL exploded in the 1990s.

Number 75: Welcome to MIT. Now build.

Starting in the early 1970s, MIT undergrads received a common kit of parts and a goal: build a machine that could perform a certain task, like going 3 feet down a 30-degree ramp in as close to three minutes as possible. “A lot of kids had never started from scratch and built anything,” says Woodie Flowers, longtime teacher of Course 2.70: Introduction to Design. In the end, the machines faced off and a winner was crowned. The course spawned the FIRST Robotics program (started by Flowers and Segway inventor Dean Kamen) for high school and elementary school students; 250,000 kids now participate in FIRST’s robotics competitions.

Number 76: Teaching with a turtle

Could kids learn math more easily by writing their own software? The Logo project at MIT created a simple computer language (“Forward 3, Right 2”) that moved a cursor around the screen to draw lines, similar to the way an Etch A Sketch works. Later, the developers of Logo added a robotic turtle that moved around the floor, responding to the programmer’s instructions. Children at Hanscom Air Force Base, along with students in Lexington and Newton, were among the first to learn Logo.

Number 77: Thinking Machines

Founded by alums of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, Thinking Machines Corp. set out to build “a machine that will be proud of us,” as the company’s motto went. Just as the human brain can multitask, the team at Thinking Machines (it filed for bankruptcy in 1994) designed computers that could do the same, handing various computational tasks to 64,000 different processors inside.

Number 78: Stopping time

MIT professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton figured out how to marry a still camera and a strobe light that could flash up to 120 times a second, stopping time and allowing for the analysis of events too fast for the naked eye to see, like a bullet passing through an apple or a drop of milk splashing down (below). Using stroboscopic photography, Edgerton’s cameras also enabled the Allies to take nighttime reconnaissance photos from airplanes during World War II and photographed atomic bomb tests from miles away.

Number 79: The Life Cycle

Francisco Modigliani, MIT economist (and 1985 Nobel recipient), contributed to what we know as the “life-cycle model,” which helps predict where a country’s economy might be headed, given its demographic composition.

Number 80: Ping!

Just as sonar pings can help spot submarines beneath the surface, they can be used to find objects sitting on the ocean floor or buried beneath layers of sediment. MIT professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton and a student, Martin Klein, developed sophisticated side-scan sonar systems and used them to find 2,000 year-old Roman shipwrecks near Turkey, 16th-century British naval ships, and the Civil War-era USS Monitor. Sidescan sonar is still regularly used to map the ocean floor, find submerged objects, and discover gas and oil fields.

Number 81: The Intergalactic Computer Network

What if any computer user could access information from digital libraries across the planet or have far-off machines run programs they’d written? J.C.R. Licklider, a former MIT professor who went to work at the Pentagon in the 1960s, imagined a vast network that would make information instantly accessible. Writing memos to address the team of researchers building what would become the Arpanet, he jokingly addressed them as “Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network.”

Number 82: Qualcomm

Irwin M. Jacobs, a New Bedford native, received two degrees from MIT in the late 1950s. He then went on to help found Qualcomm Inc. with Andrew Viterbi, current chairman and former CEO.

Number 83: That cool hologram

The “rainbow hologram” wouldn’t exist if not for MIT professor Stephen Benton, who created one that can be seen in normal light. (Earlier generations of holograms required laser light to create the illusion of three-dimensionality.) Rainbow holograms – also known as “Benton holograms” – help make it hard for crooks to crank out fake credit cards, and they often appear on product packaging as a sign of authenticity.

Number 84: Lotus

Love it or hate it, Lotus Notes was everywhere for a while. Mitch Kapor, who studied at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in the late 1970s and later returned as a visiting scientist, is a true software pioneer who founded Lotus Development Corp. in 1982.

Number 85: Conducting business

Nick DeWolf, a 1948 MIT alum, cofounded in 1960 Teradyne Inc., one of the leaders of designing semiconductors.

Number 86: Kurzweil’s wild ride

As an MIT sophomore, Ray Kurzweil wrote a computer program to match high school students with their ideal colleges. He sold the company for $100,000, plus royalties, before graduation. He went on to invent an electronic keyboard that could produce realistic instrument sounds (for Stevie Wonder), the first flatbed scanner that could convert printed documents into digital form, and a text-to-speech synthesizer capable of reading books to the blind. Lately, Kurzweil has been writing software to try to predict stock market movements and books that anticipate a point when human and machine intelligence might converge.

Number 87: This joke’s on you

MIT students took the word “prank” to new highs (and lows), from parking a police car on the Great Dome (1994) to burying a giant weather balloon beneath the Harvard Stadium field that inflated during a timeout in the annual Harvard-Yale game (1982).

Number 88: Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting was an Englishman who studied civil engineering at MIT and served in the British Army in World War I. Appalled by the mistreatment and death of horses during the war, Lofting wrote stories and mailed them to his children. They were the tales of a kindly physician who cared for animals. Lofting showed the letters to a writer, who recommended his own publisher. Doctor Dolittle was born.

Number 89: The real Dr. Doolittle!

In 1922, James Harold Doolittle was the first to fly across the United States in a single day. In 1929, he flew with his head wrapped in a hood that kept him from seeing out the windows, becoming the first to fly “blind,” relying only on the cockpit instruments. And in 1942, less than five months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Doolittle led the first mission to hit the Japanese on their own soil. The bombs reassured Americans that the Japanese would be beaten, and Doolittle won the Medal of Honor. And it all started with a master’s and a doctorate in aeronautics from MIT.

Number 90: Ticket to ride

Why would somebody go to MIT for a bachelor’s degree in music? Alex Rigopulos did, and, along with musician and engineering student Eran Egozy, the pair launched Harmonix Music Systems. After a slow start, the Cambridge company in 2005 published Guitar Hero, which came with a plastic instrument and let anybody pretend to play lead guitar in a rock band. It became one of the decade’s biggest games, and the more advanced Rock Band game that followed helped Harmonix rack up $3 billion in sales. The music game market has faded, but millions of fake guitars litter homes worldwide.

Number 91: Beyond the ABCs

Jim Marggraff has helped make learning easier for millions of children. Armed with MIT bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, Marggraff tackled geography education in the 1990s with a talking globe that pronounced the names of countries when the student tapped them. The business was acquired by LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., where Marggraff developed the popular LeapPad, which could read text from specially printed books, helping children learn to read.

Number 92; A Big Dig

Fred Salvucci, an MIT engineer and former state transportation secretary, hatched the idea to put Boston’s Expressway underground. As the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy said, “No Fred Salvucci, no Big Dig.”

Number 93: Cellular suicide

Every cell carries the genetic equivalent of a suicide pill and can kill itself if it is not needed or is potentially dangerous. By identifying the genes involved in this process, known as apoptosis, MIT biologist H. Robert Horvitz, who received the Nobel Prize, offered insights into basic animal biology and many human diseases. Too much programmed cell death, for example, can destroy key heart cells, triggering a heart attack, while too little allows cancerous tumors to grow out of control.

Number 94: The value of stem cells

Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute was the first to show that cells crucial in embryonic development could be used to treat disease. He used stem cells – versatile cells that can transform into virtually any other cell in the body – to “fix” genetic mistakes in Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell anemia. He also explained scientifically why clones are not as healthy or long-lived as their “mothers.”

Number 95: Big Ben

Ben Bernanke, economist and chairman of the Federal Reserve, received his PhD from MIT in 1979.

Number 96: Why folding matters

Nothing good comes from misfolding a blanket. But Susan Lindquist showed that misfolding proteins can be productive, and could one day help scientists understand what causes certain diseases, and ultimately how to treat them. While folding molecular proteins can cause terrible neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Lindquist, a Whitehead Institute biologist, National Medal of Science winner, and longtime advocate for women in science, has shown that folding mistakes can also promote the evolution of new traits.

Number 97: If I only had a brain!

Marvin Minsky was a cofounder of MIT’s artificial intelligence lab. He imagined a new way to re-create a mind. Instead of trying to make a single, centralized “thinking engine,” his insight was that the human brain is composed of a large number of specialized parts that represent knowledge in multiple ways. These “agents” interact to produce what we call sensations, emotions, plans, and thoughts.

Number 98: Brainiacs

Mriganka Sur demonstrated the brain’s remarkable ability to change and rewire itself. He showed that hearing centers of the brain can “see” if given visual input, by connecting the eyes to the brain’s hearing regions, which then were used to interpret visual information. Sur heads a department at MIT – Brain and Cognitive Sciences – that includes an impressive roster of scientists who are transforming our understanding of Parkinson’s disease, how the brain works during sleep, and what anesthesia does to the brain.

Number 99: Growing young?

Biology professor Lenny Guarente and MIT alum Cynthia Kenyon found the first genes linked to aging. These discoveries were critical because they proved that aging is regulated by key genes and, therefore, is something science may be able to manipulate. The question is, should we?

Number 100; Shrinkage

We all have an image of what the computer looked like back in the early 1950s: a room-sized box full of switches and tubes. But how did we get from that to the 3/4-inch MacBook Air? A photograph in Life magazine in 1956 holds a clue. In it, 29-year-old MIT doctoral student Dudley Buck showcases his new invention, the cryotron – a sliver-sized computer circuit employing superconductivity to transmit electrical impulses – in his right hand and an oversized vacuum tube the cryotron could replace in his left. It was one of the first glances at our personal computing future.

Number 101: Google him

Shuman Ghosemajumder, a graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is the former chief of click fraud at Google. He helped protect advertisers in a $20 billion industry from fraud.

Number 102: Sunny days ahead

The problem with solar power is not the technology, it’s producing that technology cheaply enough to make widespread adoption feasible. Mechanical engineering professor Emanuel Sachs made strides in solving that equation 25 years ago with the creation of a “string ribbon” process that used less energy and cut down on silicon waste over conventional solar panel construction. His latest company, 1366 Technologies, promises to reduce the energy required for solar cell production to 10 percent of traditional means.

Number 103: She planned it

Lois Lilley Howe, an 1890 MIT graduate, was the second woman in the United States to found an architecture firm.

Number 104: It keeps going, and going . . .

While serving on a jury, Alan Epstein, former head of MIT’s Gas Turbine Laboratory, mused about how small he could shrink the huge jet propulsion turbines he worked with in his lab. He figured if a turbine could be shrunk to the size of a coin, it could produce electricity to power small devices like cellphones. Researchers in Epstein’s lab produced a prototype on a silicon chip, powered by a hydrogen cell that runs 10 times longer than a battery of the same weight. A device could be ready to test by the Army in a few years.

Number 105: The first Atlantic crossing

In 1919, eight years before Charles Lindbergh made his famous solo trans-Atlantic flight on the Spirit of St. Louis, it was the less dramatically named aircraft NC-4 that actually made history as the first airplane to fly across the Atlantic. Named the “Flying Boat,” it was designed by MIT professor Jerome Hunsaker, who proved that airplanes could fly long distances through all kinds of weather (the trip took 19 days). Within a decade, passenger planes were regularly making long journeys, and the world got a whole lot smaller.

Number 106: First human-powered airplane

In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a wily inventor who made wings out of feathers and wax to escape his prison on the island of Crete. A team of MIT grads and professors gave a nod to the old guy with their flying craft Daedalus 88, which made a 72-mile flight from Crete to the island of Santorini – the distance Daedalus supposedly flew – powered completely by the energy of a Greek Olympic cyclist. The flight is still the world record for human-powered aircraft and makes us wonder how far we can pedal?

Number 107: Car talk

The leaders of Ford Motor Co., William Clay Ford Jr., chairman, and Alan Mulally, president and CEO, both graduated from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Number 108: The ’Car Talk’ guys

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, MIT classes of ‘58 and ‘72 respectively, have been helping car owners to their own Eureka moments for 35 years. Better known as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers,” the staples on NPR’s automotive advice show “Car Talk” educate, amuse, and needle car owners and casual Sunday morning listeners with near total recall of the most obscure facts about a 1987 Ford Taurus. Somewhere along the way, they have helped change how we think of what we drive and why we drive it.

Number109: He’s electric

Charles R. Cross was an MIT physics professor who started the first modern course in electrical engineering in 1882 as a subset of the physics department.

Number 110: That’s progress

Robert Solow is one of the world’s leading economists and a 1987 Nobel recipient. His Solow-Swan growth model explained how technical progress and innovation are critical for any economy’s productivity.

Number 111: Underwater robots

Anyone who’s seen “Titanic” knows how undersea robots helped revolutionize exploration. Submersibles such as Alvin and Jason have helped discover everything from sunken treasure to species. None of this would have been possible were it not for the pioneering effort of the MIT Sea Grant Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Laboratory. In 1988 engineer Jim Bellingham created a 3-foot-long robot named Sea Squirt and sent it exploring the depths of the Charles River.

Number 112: Ridiculously fast-charging batteries

If electric cars are going to catch on, they’ve got to be as easy to refuel as today’s vehicles. Plugging them in for hours to recharge won’t be good enough. Enter lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4), discovered by MIT researchers Byoungwoo Kang and Gerbrand Ceder. Recharging, to quote the researchers, happens at “ridiculously fast speeds.” Batteries could potentially charge 100 times faster than regular batteries; for small batteries, that could mean a matter of seconds, and even larger car batteries could charge in five minutes. The hope is to develop the batteries commercially within two years.

Number 113: One tiny nuclear reactor

One of the first nuclear reactors for civilian purposes began operating at MIT in 1958 and is still in use today. About 1/1000th the size of an industrial reactor, it still packs a powerful punch, making it ideal for research. It’s been used for developing new cancer therapies, and more recently it is playing a role in developing a new cladding for fuel rods to supplant the zirconium protection that failed during Japan’s reactor meltdown. “Even though this reactor is 52 years old, it is doing things right at the forefront of nuclear science engineering,” says director David Moncton.

Number 114: The Next Zipcar?

Equal parts Smart Car, Zipcar, and bike sharing – the CityCar, in production at MIT’s Media Lab, rests on an innovative design that moves the drivetrain from the center of the car to create individual motors on each wheel. The two-seat electric car can turn with a zero radius and fold in half for tight parking spaces. Inventor Ryan Chin sees CityCar as “mobility on demand,” allowing commuters to swipe a card, drive away, and leave it at another station (with no reservation). Chin hopes to unveil it in Spain by late 2013.

Number 115: Baby talk

Deb Roy, director of the Cognitive Machines Group at MIT, turned his house into a video- and sound-recording lab after his baby was born, and he launched an ambitious study of how children learn to speak.

Number 116: Statesman

George P. Shultz, MIT class of 1949 and later a professor of economics at the school, served as Secretary of the Treasury and labor under President Nixon and Secretary of State under President Reagan.

Number 117: Watching Your language

Noam Chomsky forever changed the field of linguistics – along with many other disciplines – with his groundbreaking work on the development of language. In the late 1950s, the prolific author, political activist, and longtime MIT professor challenged the conventional view in linguistics, psychology, and other cognitive fields that environment played an outsized role in shaping the human mind. Chomsky’s revolutionary work stirred controversy but changed our understanding of how humans develop language, showing that regardless of where we are born, we share common biological bases for the words we form.

Number 118: Prime minister

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, received an architecture degree and a bachelor’s degree in science from MIT in the late 1970s and studied political science at MIT and Harvard.

Number 119: All systems go

Jay Forrester grew up on a cattle ranch in Nebraska, worked on critical radar systems during World War II, and helped design computer technology that formed the basis for the US air defense system. He drew on all these experiences to create a field at MIT in the 1950s called system dynamics, which became an influential way of analyzing just about everything that happens in the world. The idea was to use computer models and simulations not just for technical systems like aircraft, but to develop “management flight simulators” to help us learn about and manage complex human systems such as companies, markets, and cities.

Number 120: But can you spell it?

Penny Chisholm, an MIT biology professor, discovered a marine micro-organism called cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus. It’s the most abundant microbe in the ocean. “Every fifth breath you take – thank Prochlorococcus for that oxygen,” Chisholm has said.

Number 121: As green as it gets

Isaac Berzin, an MIT chemical engineer and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2008, formed GreenFuel Technologies with the hope of growing algae and converting it into biofuel. His company closed in 2009, and Berzin returned to Israel, where he is trying to build an institute that will create sustainable alternative energy policies.

Number 122: Space man

A 1963 graduate, Colonel Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin went on to be an astronaut and the second man to walk on the moon.

Number 123: Generator X

You’ve seen them in science museums – that mysterious sphere on a stick that generates its own lightning or causes a person’s hair to rise. The Van de Graaff generator, however, is more than a gimmick; it is a precursor to today’s massive particle accelerators. In 1929, Robert Van de Graaff built his first generator, which charged up a hollow metal sphere using a spinning belt that generated static electricity. The basic principle of creating high-speed beams of particles has become a cornerstone of modern physics.

Number 124: Taking flight

Ed Greitzer, MIT aeronautics professor, won a $2 million National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant to design a new wider, shorter airplane (called the “double bubble”) that uses less fuel and makes less noise. With any luck we’ll be flying friendlier skies by 2035.

Number 125: Before “open source”

Richard Stallman, software pioneer and former MIT professor, was one of the earliest proponents of unlocking software, or what we know today as “open source.”

Number 126: Achoo!

Susumu Tonegawa received a 1987 Nobel Prize for his insights into explaining how our immune system wards off so much disease. He founded the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.

Number 127: Big important book

Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman, a pair of MIT computer science professors, wrote “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs,” which remains a classic for encouraging the teaching of not one specific programming language, but big-picture themes students could apply across a range of programming scenarios.

Number 128: Work in progress

In 1960, Douglas McGregor, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, split corporate thought into two camps. Theory X held that employees were inherently disinclined to work and needed to be strictly controlled. Theory Y held that employees should be trusted and empowered. McGregor showed, at a time when labor-management relations were becoming more adversarial, that there was another way to see workers.

Number 129: Defender

Like Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Arens was another MIT graduate (class of 1947) who went into Israeli politics, becoming minister of defense.

Number 130: Hands-on learning

When Polaroid founder Edwin Land spoke at MIT in 1957, he urged greater opportunities for students to get their hands dirty. Professor Margaret MacVicar took the message to heart, changing the course of undergraduate education at MIT and well beyond. At the time, many undergraduates, even at MIT, had limited chances to engage in faculty-directed research. In 1969, MacVicar established the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, making research a key component of an MIT education. Today 85 percent of undergraduates participate in the program.

Number 131: Summers in Cambridge

He’s known as the former president of Harvard, but Lawrence Summers is an alum and former MIT professor who was active on the MIT debate team. Oh, he was also U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Number 132: It’s a secret

John Deutch, a renowned chemist and MIT professor, was director of the CIA under President Clinton.

Number 133: Four score!

He spent only a year at MIT in the late 1860s, but two of the most famous sculptures near Boston and one of the most famous sculptures in the world are his. Daniel Chester French is the artist behind the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard, the Concord Minute Man, and the seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Number 134: We’re all connected

With Project Athena in the 1980s, a $70 million initiative, MIT expanded the use of computers on campus. A $50 million gift from Digital Equipment Corp. and IBM Corp., the program established computers, and, perhaps more important, computer networks, as critical components of a university. Jim Bruce, a former longtime professor and onetime vice president for information systems at MIT, says advances in hardware and software allowed students to learn about things such as aircraft wing design in an afternoon rather than over an entire term.

Number 135: Scandal!

Before there was TMZ and US Weekly, there was (and still is) the National Enquirer. Generoso Pope Jr., godfather of the tabloid, founded the famed publication and is a 1946 MIT graduate. Seriously.

Number 136: Like father, like son

Theodore Miller Edison was the fourth child of his famous inventor father. Ted Edison studied physics at MIT and after graduating in 1923 went on to earn more than 80 patents.

Number 137: Teamwork

MIT has maintained an extensive relationship with China for years, and one of the biggest collaborations is the Beijing Urban Design Studio. Created in 1985, it’s a series of partnerships involving faculty and students from MIT and Tsinghua University. The studio is one of the longest and most successful joint international academic programs in China. It has allowed hundreds of American students to expand their understanding of the fastest urbanizing country in history, while exposing Chinese students to different ways of thinking about cities and change.

Number 138: Cool discovery

Everyone learns the familiar states of matter: liquid, gas, solid. But in the 1920s, physicists Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose predicted it should be possible to cool matter to near absolute zero to make a new kind of matter – a kind of blob of supercooled gas in which all the atoms acted in unison. MIT physicist Wolfgang Ketterle shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for finding a way to create this state of matter, which has become a new model to test various aspects of quantum theory.

Number 139: Big thinker

Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and American economist, earned his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. In 2008, he received the Nobel Prize for Economics for, according to the prize committee, his “analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity.”

Number 140: Not “Animal House”

Only at MIT does a single fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi, produce venture capitalists (Brad Feld, a founder of the TechStars program for aspiring entrepreneurs), videogame innovators (“Rock Band” developer Eran Egozy), public company CEOs (Colin Angle of iRobot), flying car inventors (Carl Dietrich of Terrafugia), and solar power innovators (Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366 Technologies). Oracle recently paid $1 billion for ATG, a Cambridge e-commerce software company founded by, yes, two former brothers of the ADP fraternity house, Jeet Singh and Joe Chung.

Number 141: Name that tune

Max Mathews, who received his doctorate in 1954, helped teach computers how to play a melody by writing MUSIC software.

Number 142: Say cheese!

He did not attend MIT, but he was one of its most famous donors because some of its graduates became his best workers. He gave millions to MIT as “Mr. Smith.” His real name? George Eastman, who introduced the Kodak camera to the world in 1888.

Number 143: Quark of nature

Watching how beams of particles scatter when they hit a particle has become one of modern physicists’ most powerful tools to reveal the basic building blocks of matter. That’s how Ernest Rutherford figured out that atoms have a nucleus, and experiments in this atom-smashing vein have revealed a large “particle zoo” of the basic components of the universe. In the late 1960s, MIT physicists Jerome Friedman and Henry Kendall worked with Stanford scientist Richard Taylor to find that protons have a substructure called quarks. Today, quarks are part of the standard model of physics.

Number 144: First Libertarian

David Nolan studied political science at MIT and cofounded the US Libertarian Party.

Number 145: Rocker

Tom Scholz, a 1970 MIT graduate, helped launch the rock band Boston and invented the Rockman, a portable amplifier that became a musician favorite for years.

Number 146: Grading on a Curve

Charles Murray, who earned his Ph.D in political science from MIT in 1974, co-wrote the controversial book and theory, “The Bell Curve.”

Number 147: “Minority Report”

John Underkoffler graduated from MIT in 1988 and went on to become the science and technology adviser to a big Hollywood director named Steven Spielberg. The dazzling technology in “Minority Report” was his team’s doing.

Number 148: How long is a Smoot?

Maybe it didn’t change the world, or even create a new unit of measurement, but in 1958, when 5-foot-7 fraternity pledge Oliver Smoot was used to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge, it left an indelible mark on two cities (the bridge, by the way, is 364.4 Smoots, plus or minus one ear).

Number 149: Taking a leap

MIT student Thomas Pelham Curtis won the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the first modern day Olympic Games in 1896. He said: “The race was nip and tuck from start to finish, both the Englishman and myself clearing the tenth hurdle abreast. I beat him out in the stretch by a scant two feet.”

Number 150: Champ!

Larry “Horsemeat” Kahn graduated MIT in 1976. His great achievement? He held the world singles title in, yes, tiddlywinks. So what world title have you ever held?