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CHIPS Articles: Introducing the 2018 Class of Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship

Introducing the 2018 Class of Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship
Commemorating a scientist who overnight revolutionized the concept of war
By CHIPS Magazine - April 9, 2018
The Department of Defense announced the selection of 11 distinguished faculty scientists and engineers to join the 2018 Class of Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows (VBFF) April 5. They join a cadre of 45 current Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows, who are sponsored by the DoD to conduct foundational research in core science and engineering disciplines that will underpin future DoD capabilities.

The Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship program is sponsored by the Basic Research Office, in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and administered by the Office of Naval Research. “This program seeks outstanding researchers to conduct transformative basic research in scientific areas of interest to the DoD,” according to a news release.

Through the VBFF program, select university researchers and students learn about DoD’s current and future challenges, and are introduced to areas of ongoing critical research. The program is designed to foster long-term relationships between DoD and university researchers, and prepares them for possible employment in the defense and national security workforce.

Fellows are currently conducting basic research in the areas of quantum information science, neuroscience, nanoscience, novel engineered materials, and applied mathematics and statistics that could revolutionize a wide range of DoD capabilities such as artificial intelligence, position-navigation-timing in denied environments, autonomous system design, decision support tools, and sensor development. In addition to conducting this innovative, blue sky research, Fellows have opportunities to work directly with the larger DoD research enterprise and to share their knowledge and insights with DoD military and civilian leaders, researchers in DoD laboratories, and the national security science and engineering community.

To understand the significance of being selected for the VBFF program, you need to know the historic work of Dr. Vannevar Bush and his contributions to national defense and the establishment of a national scientific community.

Dr. Vannevar Bush

The VBFF commemorates Dr. Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II, who came to the position by presidential appointment. On June 28, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the OSRD with the signing of Executive Order 8807. As engineer, inventor and science administrator, Dr. Bush coordinated the work of 6,000 leading American scientists in the application of science to warfare, according to articles in the Atlantic Monthly from 1945 and 2001. Almost all wartime military R&D was carried out in his office, including initiation and early administration of the Manhattan Project. He is also known for his pioneering work on analog computers, founding Raytheon, and for the Memex, a hypothetical adjustable microfilm viewer, a forerunner to hypertext, in which he was a pivotal researcher. Later, Dr. Bush was chiefly responsible for the movement that led to the creation of the National Science Foundation.

According to his obituary in the New York Times , Bush is credited with “developing such sophisticated new weapons as radar, the proximity fuze, fire control mechanisms, amphibious vehicles and ultimately the atomic bomb — devices that overnight revolutionized the concept of war.”

The Times obituary describes Dr. Bush as “A master craftsman at steering around stubborn obstacles, whether they were technical or political or bull-headed generals and admirals, Vannevar Bush was the paradigm of the engineer — a man who got things done. It was this skill, along with a hard-boiled Yankee shrewdness and, driving energy, that he brought to the task of mobilizing American scientists and engineers [30,000 across the country] for World War II.”

He has been widely credited with being instrumental to the Allied victory and establishing a system of national support for basic scientific research that has made American science the most prestigious and productive in the world.

The Times described Dr. Bush as an optimist.

“I believe that the technological future is far less dreadful and frightening than many of us have been led to believe, and that the hopeful aspects of modern applied science outweigh by a heavy margin its threat to our civilization,” he wrote.

“I believe the democratic process is itself an asset with which, if we can find the enthusiasm and the skill to use it and the faith to make it strong, we can build a world in which all men can live in prosperity and peace.”

Over the span of his remarkable 60-year career in the sciences, Bush worked as a scientist and administrator for the Defense Department, as an educator, inventor, entrepreneur, author and businessman. He had a longtime affiliation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology teaching and as a researcher.

After World War II, President Truman awarded Dr. Bush the Medal of Merit in 1948. President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded him the National Medal of Science in 1963 and President Richard Nixon presented him with the Atomic Pioneers Award from the Atomic Energy Commission in February 1970. In recognition for his efforts on behalf of the Allies, Bush was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1948, and an Officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1955.

After suffering a stroke, Bush died in Belmont, Massachusetts from pneumonia on June 28, 1974, at the age of 84.

In 1980, the National Science Foundation created the Vannevar Bush Award to honor his contributions to public service.

The Vannevar Bush papers are conserved in several places, with the majority of the collection held at the Library of Congress. Additional papers are held by the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections the Carnegie Institution, and the National Archives and Records Administration.

Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows

In the spirit of the exemplary work of Dr. Bush, DoD invests in basic research to probe the limits of today's technologies to discover new phenomena and know-how that ultimately leads to future technologies and helps prevent capability surprise by an adversary. DoD’s investments in scientific research have led to broad and game-changing capabilities such as the global positioning satellite (GPS) system, magnetic random access memory (MRAM), stealth technology, and many others.

For a list of the new members of the 2018 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows by name, academic institution and research projects click here.

The 10th Anniversary meeting of the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship is scheduled April 9-10, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Vannevar Bush, James Conant, Leslie Groves and Franklin Matthias, Hanford, Washington,  Engineer Works, a testing site for the Manhattan Project, 1942
Vannevar Bush, James Conant, Leslie Groves and Franklin Matthias, Hanford, Washington, Engineer Works, a testing site for the Manhattan Project, 1942
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