Saturday, September 20, 2014

Vannevar Bush

We went to the beach for a couple of days and stopped in a big junk shop. Along one wall in an alcove there were hundreds of books.Most of them were clearly from one person's private library. College yearbooks, cookbooks, fiction, and non-fiction all mixed in together.

I could see the arc of a life and was pondering what happens to our treasures after we are gone. I found a name in some of the books, looked at them as a senior in college in the last yearbook, considered what books they collected, figured out that at some point they had joined the "Book-of-the-Month" club.

One of those books was written by Vannevar Bush. I'd never heard of him, but he was one of the most important scientists of the last century. The Wiki article on him is extensive. Here's the opening:
Vannevar Bush (March 11, 1890 – June 28, 1974) was an American engineer, inventor and science administrator, whose most important contribution was as head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) during World War II, through which almost all wartime military R&D was carried out, including initiation and early administration of the Manhattan Project.
There's a lot more in the article. He invented and built an analog computer in 1927 to do differential equations. His team developed the proximity fuze for artillery shells. He was involved enough to have been there with Oppenheimer for the Trinity test. He was the head of the panel that reviewed the evidence and informed the President that the Russians had detonated a nuclear bomb.

He was also a writer. I bought one of his books in that junk shop for three dollars. That book and it's predictions will be the subject of my next post.


EricN said...

His name shows up a lot when you read about the development of the digital computer too.

Old NFO said...

He was one of those 'hidden' geniuses that worked for the government and allowed us to win the war.

libertyman said...

Interesting man, he didn't embrace digital computing it seems.

bruce said...

Is the book Modern Arms and Free Men? 'A machine doesn't have to come back' puts the case for drones pretty well.