MIT’s Birthday Bash

This month the Institute kicks off an anniversary celebration for the ages.

Hey, the planet’s leading center of science, technology, and precision engineering turns 150 years old only once. So you’ll forgive the lovable geeks over at MIT if they spent four years planning the Institute’s sesquicentennial celebration. The toughest part, according to David Mindell, faculty director of the MIT150 committee? Figuring out exactly what to showcase when your university has been home to 76 Nobel laureates and “helps change the world on a regular basis.” In the end, the committee settled on a party that kicks off on January 7 and doesn’t let up for 150 days — one for every year of the school’s existence. (Did we mention these guys are good with math?)

As part of the shindig, the MIT Museum this month opens its largest exhibition yet, highlighting 150 objects that have made an impact throughout the Institute’s history — from the world’s first pocket calculator (co-invented by MIT alum and HP cofounder William Hewlett) to a piano once dropped off the roof of Baker House (now an annual tradition). The university will also conduct a series of talks exploring fascinating (no, really) research topics, and there will be an oral-history project featuring interviews with more than 100 influential MIT types.

Given that Mindell’s computerized calculations predict “celebration fatigue” to begin its inevitable creep a little more than halfway through the festivities, MIT will unwrap another surprise this spring to keep the campus buzzing. Starting April 30, the Institute will, for the first time in memory, offer the public lectures as well as tours of its famous labs. That means open doors at the Stata Center (the site of artificial intelligence research), the renowned Media Lab, and the new Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. You can even check out the iconic Great Dome atop Building 10, the setting for the student body’s most legendary hacks. “I hope people see something about MIT that they’ve never seen before,” Mindell says.