1931, Vannevar Bush completed work on his most significant invention,
the differential analyzer, a precursor to the modern computer.
It used electrical motors to drive shafts and gears that represented
terms in complex equations, and was invaluable to scientists and
engineers in fields as diverse as ballistics, acoustics, and atomic
physics. The differential analyzer significantly reduced the time
and effort required to carry out such calculations and opened
the eyes of many observers to the enormous possibilities of computers.
was born in Everett, Massachusetts, and earned B.S. and M.S. degrees
in engineering from Tufts University before completing his Ph.D.
in engineering at MIT in 1916. After performing acoustic research
for the Navy during World War I, Bush joined the MIT faculty,
becoming dean of the school of engineering in 1932. From 1938
to 1955, Bush was president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington.
During World War II, he became director of the Office of Scientific
Research and Development, which oversaw all defense research and
development, including the development of radar and the atomic
bomb. After World War II, Bush played an important role in the
federal government's financial support of basic research, including
the establishment of the National Science Foundation. Bush may
be best remembered, however, for his prescient, influential 1945
essay "As We May Think," in which he elaborated a vision
that prefigured the development of hypertext and other elements
of the World Wide Web.