Throwback Thursday: When MIT Was Founded

On April 10, 1861, the Massachusetts governor signed a charter for a new institution, which was first known as "Boston Tech."


via MIT

We remember the year 1861 in American history largely because it marked the start of the Civil War. But up here in Massachusetts, the era saw other significant developments, chief among them on April 10, 1861, when the Governor of Massachusetts signed a charter for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The incorporation came at the behest of William Barton Rogers, a scientist who had long advocated for an institute that would contend with rapid technological advancements. “The opening marked the culmination of an extended effort by William Barton Rogers to establish a new kind of independent educational institution relevant to an increasingly industrialized America,” MIT itself recalls. In his proposal for the school, he wrote:

In view of this recognized connection between industrial progress and an enlarged aquaintance with the objects and phenomena of nature and with physical laws, we find that the most enlightened communities of Europe have endeavored to provide for the practical co-operation of Education and the Arts, by the establishment of Museums, Societies, and Colleges of Technology.

Finally, in 1861, Gov. John Albion Andrew put the charter into effect. It read:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled … a body corporate by the name of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for the purpose of instituting and maintaining a society of arts, a museum of arts, and a school of industrial science, and aiding generally, by suitable means, the advancement, development and practical application of science in connection with arts, agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; with all the powers and privileges, and subject to all the duties, restrictions and liabilities, set forth in the sixty-eighth chapter of the General Statutes.

Though Rogers achieved his goal for establishing the Institute in 1861, the Civil War interrupted, and the school itself didn’t open until the war’s end in 1865. The institute was intended to mix liberal and vocational education. Located  in the Back Bay, it quickly became known as “Boston Tech.” Only in 1916 did the school move to Cambridge, making the nickname a bit unfitting. But we’ll always remember the nickname it went by in its youth.