Objects

integrator section from Vannevar Bush differential analyzer

Major collection: Science & Technology
Object type: computer
Maker: Bush, Vannevar
Place made: United States, Massachusetts, Cambridge, MIT
Date made: circa 1930
Materials: wood; metal; glass
Measurements: (Actual) 21 3/4 in x 41 1/4 in x 35 1/2 in; (Estimated) 24 in x 48 in x 36 in
Nomenclature: data processing tools and equipment - electromechanical machinery
Classification: tools and equipment

Two (of six) integrators from the Differential Analyzer developed by Vannevar Bush with Harold Hazen beginning in the fall of 1928. (Hazen contributed to the design and construction of the wheel and disc integrators with their torque amplifiers and frontlash units. Hazen's work was inspired by a paper by C.W. Nieman on torque amplifiers.) The Differential Analyzer began solving problems in 1930. Bush described the machine in 1931 in an article in the Journal of the Franklin Institute. (V. Bush, "The Differential Analyzer: A New Machine for Solving Differential Equations," Journal of the Franklin Institute, 212 (1931): 447-88.) The wooden case which protected two integrators was added between 1931 and 1935. This was the third machine developed by Vannevar Bush and his students and faculty colleagues. The first two machines were known as the "continuous integraph" or "Product Integraph." Capable of solving sixth-order differential equations (or 3 second-order equations), the Differential Analyzer (which was named by Prof. Waldo V. Lyon's as a way to differentiate it from its predecessors, was a milestone in the development of modern analytical machines and many copies were build in the United States and Europe. The MIT machine was decommissioned in 1947 and transferred to Wayne State University. When Wayne State University ceased operations, this unit was given to the MIT Museum in 1981. Other components were given to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution in 1956 and 1964. Professor Vannevar Bush's invention of the Differential Analyzer in 1928-1930 "mechanized calculus." This analog electromechanical device built with the assistance of Bush's graduate students -- Harold Hazen, Samuel Caldwell, Gordon Brown, and Harold Edgerton -- filled a room. The integrator unit that was on exhibit was one of six that were connected together by long metal rods and gears. Glass panels reveal the wheel-and-disc mechanism that performed the actual integration and helped provide the solution to complex differential equations. During the 1930s, Bush continued to develop this device, and many MIT laboratories benefited -- including Harold Edgerton's famous Strobe Lab and George Harrison's Spectroscopy Lab. During World War II, the Differential Analyzer was used 24 hours a day, especially to help solve problems from the MIT Radiation Laboratory. Bush became a prominent figure when President Franklin D. Roosevelt named him to be his top science advisor during the war. After the war, Bush's timely analysis, Science: The Endless Frontier, led to the creation of the National Science Foundation. [MIT 150 Exhibition label text]


IN-2394

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thumbnail Bush, Vannevar
American
1890-1974
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thumbnail Caldwell, Samuel Hawks
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thumbnail Hazen, Harold Locke
American
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thumbnail Brown, Gordon Stanley
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thumbnail Edgerton, Harold Eugene
American
1903-1990; electrical engineer; professor
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thumbnail Hazen, Harold Locke
American
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thumbnail Bush, Vannevar
American
1890-1974
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