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Vannevar Bush
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person Dr. Vannevar Bush, 1890-1974. The man who invented
hypertext, which he called memex, in the 1930s.
Bush did his undergraduate work at Tufts College, where he
later taught. His masters thesis (1913) included the
invention of the Profile Tracer, used in surveying work to
measure distances over uneven ground. In 1919, he joined
MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering, where he stayed
for twenty-five years. In 1932, he was appointed
vice-president and dean. At this time, Bush worked on optical
and photocomposition devices, as well as a machine for rapid
selection from banks of microfilm.
Further positions followed: president of the Carnegie
Institute in Washington, DC (1939); chair of National Advisory
Committee for Aeronautics (1939); director of Office of
Scientific Research and Development. This last role was as
presidential science advisor, which made him personally
responsible for the 6,000 scientists involved in the war
effort. During World War II, Bush worked on radar antenna
profiles and the calculation of artillery firing tables. He
proposed the development of an analogue computer, which
Bush is the pivotal figure in hypertext research. His
ground-breaking 1945 paper, "As We May Think," speculated on
how a machine might be created to assist human reasoning, and
introduced the idea of an easily accessible, individually
configurable storehouse of knowledge. This machine, which he
dubbed "memex," in various ways anticipated hypermedia and
the World Wide Web by nearly half a century.