MIT and the Rise of Entrepreneurial Science

MIT and the Rise of Entrepreneurial Science

MIT and the Rise of Entrepreneurial Science

MIT and the Rise of Entrepreneurial Science

Synopsis

Henry Etkowitz's study considers the transformation of the role of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in society as an expanded one involving economic and social development as well as teaching and research.

Excerpt

As early as the 1840s, William Barton Rogers, a professor of geology at the University of Virginia, envisioned a school that would systematically infuse industry with science-based technology. In its early years, MIT took the form of a classical college with a specified common curriculum but largely filled it with the content of a polytechnic education. Nevertheless, MIT was also founded with the ideal of training its students in the liberal arts as well as practical disciplines to enable them to become leaders in their professions, not mere technicians. The informal objective was to ensure that MIT graduates had broad preparation for industrial leadership and thus would become top executives rather than end up working for Harvard graduates. Rogers’ vision of a university that would train sophisticated industrial leaders and create major innovations, rather than narrow inventions, inspired the early prominence of liberal arts and science disciplines in the curriculum of an engineering school.

MIT integrated various academic formats, including the classical teaching college, the polytechnic engineering school, the land grant university and the research university into a unique configuration. These academic paradigms provided the inspiration for various aspects of MIT’s development as a technological university with a strong science base and a special version of the liberal arts related to its purposes. During the nineteenth century, US academia divided into separate streams of “pure science”- and “technology”-based institutions, with distinct cultures and academic missions. There were also mixed forms with technology schools included within universities in a lesser status, such as the Sheffield School at Yale, but these were typically unstable, temporary coalitions. After rejecting an attempt made in the early twentieth century to place science first, MIT subsequently developed a strong research base in both science and technology. The losers in this struggle left MIT and moved west to develop their academic concept, an implicit linear model going from research in academic disciplines to eventual practical uses at the California Institute of Technology. MIT combined the research university’s “linear model” with the land grant university’s “reverse linear model” predicated upon deriving research goals from societal needs.

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