Also known as MIT
, the Institute
, the 'Tute
, and Hell
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded by William Barton
Rogers, and chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in
1863. Its first buildings were in Boston, where "Technology" offered degrees in Chemistry, Medicine, Metallurgy, and other applied sciences of
the time. In 1911, using money from an anonymous donor later discovered
to be George Eastman, the Institute purchased land (or at least landfill)
across the river in Cambridge. A new set of buildings in
the neo-classical style were constructed, and MIT formally moved
into its new setting in 1916.
The Institute was one of the first universities in America to accept women. The first female graduate, Ellen Swallow Richards, was Class of 1873 in the
Chemistry department, and became part of the Chemistry department's faculty shortly thereafter. Although it was certainly male-dominated until the last
decade or two, there were consistently small classes of women receiving
their engineering degrees throughout this century.
In World War II, MIT set itself up as one of the United States' research
powerhouses. Radar was first developed in the now-demolished Building 20,
and Draper Laboratories (home of the Ground Zero Cafe at the default coordinates for all US nuclear bombs) was established together with the Department of Defense. The Institute was considered such a tempting target for Nazi raids that the skylights of the
dome were covered to prevent enemy pilots from using them
Today, MIT is one of the premiere scientific and engineering schools in
the country. A brass rat, the Institute's distinctive class ring, is sufficient
to at least get a graduate into most job interviews. and is occaisionally enough
on its own to guarantee a position. The workload is tremendous, and a common
saying at MIT is "A Harvard education is like growing flowers; an MIT education is like forging steel." More than a few students have broken under the pressure, but the intense environment tends
to produce close-knit communities of students, and graduation is usually
considered a tremendous accomplishment.
In large part as a result of the high-pressure environment, MIT has developed
its own unique culture. Visitors to the Institute are frequently confused by
the ever-present numbering schemes: both buildings and courses are referred to by number more often than name, and
a sentence such as "I'm off to 18.03 in 54-100" makes perfect sense. The
Institute also has its own brand of specialized humor known as hacks, and
a strong tradition of storytelling surrounding hacking history.
There is also a specialized vocabulary at the 'Tute: words such as "punt" "tool" and "eit" are commonly heard in student (and sometimes professor) conversation. Alums frequently remain part of the community, and houses
full of recent graduates are common sights in the Cambridge area.
There is a movement (unfortunate or fortunate, depending on your point of view)
by MIT's current administration to change the old patterns. The freshmen on
campus movement, bitterly protested by residents of the East Campus dorms
and FSILGs, seems to be a step towards randomized housing as opposed
to the current system which allows students to choose their own housing. Professors who graduated and got their doctorate from MIT are becoming
rarer, although they still exist, and the administrators in higher positions
are more frequently unfamiliar with life at the Institute from a student's perspective. There are, however, countermovements from students and alumni,
such as ILTFP, which are fighting to preserve the best parts of MIT culture,
so perhaps the future is not as bleak as it looks.
If you're considering attending the Institute and want more information, try visiting the How to GaMIT node. Outside of E2, How to GaMIT is a guide to life at MIT, and I'm working on noding up an equivalent here with help from other members of the community.