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July 20, 2018

Thomas Edison’s endorsement of MIT

Someone alert MIT’s recruitment office: Thomas Alva Edison was a fan.

Here’s a 1916 letter from a father asking Edison’s advice about where to send his son who is “not a very studious boy” but is “mechanically inclined”:

Letter to Edison with his recommendation of MIT

Edison’s handwritten response says, as best I can make out:

My advice is to send him to the Mass Institute of Technology – Boston of all the young men out of college which I have employed those from the Mass Tech were far superior to all others.”

Source: “Letter from Harry C Shaaber to Thomas Alva Edison, October 30th, 1916,” Edison Papers Digital Edition, accessed July 20, 2018, http://edison.rutgers.edu/digital/document/E1632AD./a>. The ever-vigilant Lewis Brett Smiler sent it to me.

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July 30, 2013

Aaron Swartz and MIT’s neutrality

In my reading, MIT does not come off as cleanly in Hal Abelson’s excellent report as Pres. Reif’s spin suggests.

When Pres. Reif writes that MIT’s actions were “reasonable, appropriate and made in good faith” I think we have to ask “Appropriate to what?” To MIT’s interests as a legal entity? Very likely. To MIT as a university? Not in my book. I won’t try to adjudicate the claims that MIT cooperated eagerly with the prosecutors but dragged its feet with the defense; I’m too emotionally involved to trust my reading of the evidence in the Abelson report. But, MIT’s timid “neutrality” wasted an opportunity to stand against the unreasonable and inappropriate tactics of the prosecutors, and to stand for the spirit of inquiry, openness, innovation, and risk-taking that has made MIT one of the world’s great universities.

I understand that MIT wasn’t going to say that it was fine with Aaron’s breaching its contract with JSTOR. But MIT could have stood against prosecutorial overreach, and for the values— if not the exact actions— Aaron embodied.


Larry Lessig has posted incisive comments about MIT’s neutrality.

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February 27, 2009

MIT Museum crowd-sources exhibition

MIT will be 150 years old in two years. So, the MIT Museum (where you can see Judith Donath’s arresting and provocative info-overwhelm installation, which opened last night) is asking the public to nominate objects to put on display. The nominations themselves will remain online forever after as a very different sort of permanent display.

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March 18, 2008

Kentucky considers banning anonymous speech

According to this excellent blog, Kentucky is considering a bill banning anonymous online speech. (The blog is the class blog for “The Web Difference” course I’m co-teaching, with John Palfrey, at Harvard Law.)

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And speaking of courses, I find it heartwarming that today I’m able to open our session on whether the Web has changed marketing by using some slides on “what is marketing” from John Hauser’s Spring 2005 course on marketing at MIT, which is available as open courseware. Gotta love the open courseware.

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