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The process of an invention first begins with a realization that there is a problem in the current technology. This realization leads to an inventor who must think of a basic solution and test different ideas until the invention solves the problem. Different people can contribute in different ways to an invention just as
Vannevar Bush’s ideas of the Memex were a major contributor to the World Wide Web, which has had a positive effect on the education system.

Vannevar Bush was born in 1890 to Richard and Emma Bush in Everett Massachusetts. During the first few years of Bush’s life, many technological advances were taking place, which inspired Bush to become part of those inventions. As a child, Bush became enthused when he saw a new invention take place, such as the perfection of the first gas-powered car. The curiosity encouraged this middle-class young man to get ahead in life and become more than just an average boy. Bush’s parents were strong encouragers of education and had high expectations of their son. He knew that his family had “the absolute requirement for him to turn an education into a good livelihood” (Zachary, 1997, 21), and therefore made the decision to use his love for technology to help change the world.

Bush attended Tufts College near Boston Massachusetts; the same university as his father. Bush became very social throughout college and “despite his many outside activities, Bush raced through his studies, achieving straight-A grades” (Zachary, 1997, 25). Bush was known as one of the smartest of his class and was able to get tutoring jobs at the school. Everyone has those teachers in life who make learning pleasurable rather than mind numbing. Bush was one of those types of teachers; he “leavened his tutoring with humor” (Zachary, 1997, 24). His students were always inspired by Bush’s love for learning and were encouraged to keep working for their education because Bush made them realize that it would be worth it in the end. Bush was benefitting the education system before he attained a bachelor’s degree.

Bush was dedicated to receiving his education, because after attending Tufts College for just four years, Bush received his Master’s degree. He later went on to graduate Engineering school at MIT and received his doctorates from Harvard and MIT. Bush put his well earned college degrees to work when he wrote his books and essays, and when scholars read his works they were able to use his ideas to further their own education. It was not very often, however, that people were able to get their hands on his work because it was not easily accessible.
In 1949, Bush’s book Modern Arms and Free Men was published. In this book, which discusses World War II, Bush uses a chapter to talk about the education system at that time. In this he mentions, “it is essential that we provide equality of opportunity of higher education in the fullest sense, so that talent and intellectual ambition shall have no artificially imposed limitations” (Bush, 1949, 237). While authorizing the NSRD, President Roosevelt requested Bush to write this book. Because he includes his opinions of the current education system in the book proves that he cares enough to want some kind of modification. His desire for change has affected many and led to higher educational opportunities in America. Today we have financial aid, loans, and scholarships. Anyone who has the desire to attend college cannot be stopped by the cost. This is very different from how it used to be. When universities first began, it was only the higher class that had the opportunity to attend. This has slowly been changing, but even in Bush’s time, it took someone of money to attend college. Bush admits that all of his “academic training was circumscribed by the necessity of getting some cash” (Zachary, 1997, 22). If Bush did not work through school and receive the small scholarships he did, he would not have been able to attend. This is why Bush has a big heart for the desire of change in the education system. He had a personal connection with the issue and took a stand for those who were suffering through the same problems he did.

The first well-known project that Bush had a large role in was the Manhattan Project during World War II. Just like any other war, countries were competing with weaponry. In 1938, the United States began developing the Atomic bomb, and in 1945 the first test explosion took place. Countries involved with the war were racing to try to create the first atomic bomb because whoever developed the A-bomb first would end the war. Bush considered “the risk of a German A-bomb too great and feared that ‘the result in the hands of Hitler might indeed enable him to enslave the world’” (Zachary, Bush, 1997, 196). Bush knew that he had to do whatever it took to make sure that the U.S. got there first. The Atomic Bomb took multiple teams of people to create. One of those teams was the National Defense Resource Committee, and Vannevar Bush was the chairman of that committee. Months after working on the project, however, Bush had a meeting with President Roosevelt suggesting the project “be managed by a new, independent organization, since the OSRD could not possibly handle the task” (Zachary, 1997, 197). The development of the Atomic Bomb was not just any ordinary invention. The Manhattan Project would take dozens of teams to find the information that they needed, because at this time, this information was not easily accessible. Although Bush claims he had no participation in actually creating the A-bomb, he is known for bringing together scientific research and the military.

After his work with the Manhattan project, Vannevar Bush made a realization of a problem in technology. The process of creating the A-bomb took more work than it would have if teams had access to more information because atomic enthusiasts “did not know how to build an atomic bomb, when one might be ready or what it would cost” (Zachary, 1997, 191). Scientists and engineers had to think of the process of creating the A-bomb step by step. They had to figure out which materials would work best and be cost effective, and they had to use trial and error multiple times in order to find all of the answers that they were looking for. Because the Manhattan project was “the biggest secret project of the war” (Zachary, 1997, 207), a recipe for an Atomic Bomb would not be located on the Internet, however the Internet would have been useful because Bush and his teams would have access to the information needed that eventually led to the development of the bomb. Vannevar Bush made this realization, which gave him the desire to find a solution to the problem of inaccessible information.

After thinking through solutions, Vannevar Bush wrote a famous essay called “As We May Think.” The Atlantic Magazine published his article at the end of the war in 1945, and “most readers make the understandable mistake of associating his ideas with the post-War information boom”. In this essay, Bush wrote that the machine promised to “Give man access to and command the inherited knowledge of the ages” (Bush, Zachary, 1997, 262). His thoughts and ideas of this new machine were breath taking for most. As Bush describes in “As We May Think”, “A Memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory” (Bush, 1945, 1). In simpler terms, the Memex would make knowledge more accessible to people. This invention would be an immense help because, rather than individuals trying to invent an invention on their own, they would have more information and sources to use. More resources would result in a much more powerful piece of technology.

Although the Memex was never actually invented, a man named Tim Berners-Lee was able to use Bush’s ideas, along with others, to invent the World Wide Web. In 1965, Ted Nelson invented the hypertext which is described as text “in which a reader was not constrained to read in any particular order, but could follow links and delve into the original document from a short quotation” (Lee, 1999, 5). After hearing of Nelson and Bush’s ideas, Berners-Lee had the desire to create an invention that would solve the problem of not being able to access all of the world’s information. The Internet was invented by a series of inventors in the 1970’s so Berners-Lee claims that he “ happened to come along with time, and the right interest and inclination, after hypertext and the Internet had come of age” (Lee, 1999, 6). Berners-Lee was the one to link hypertext and the Internet together. The hypertext documents were what Bush had in mind when he described the Memex, which is how his ideas eventually led to the creation of the World Wide Web. Bush is recognized today because “a number of present-day products and research projects in the fields of hypertext, multimedia, and information retrieval look back to Bush’s Memex as a prototypical first idea” (Kahn, Nyce, 1991, 39).

Tim Berners-Lee intended for the World Wide Web to be a positive contribution to the world and believed it to be “important that the Web help people be intuitive as well as analytical because our society needs both functions” (Lee, 1999, 201). People today have become fully dependent on this system and use it as a source for anything they need information on. The World Wide Web has benefitted the education system because information became easily accessible. To find basic information on any subject, the World Wide Web is the tool to use. This unlimited amount of information is useful to anyone, especially scholars. Books, articles, newspapers, archives, and much more can be accessed through the World Wide Web instantly. This is beneficial because students are now able to use the Internet to aid them through school.

Some people might disagree that using the Internet is not beneficial because the student does not have to think for themselves. However, every person needs help and rather than going to just one person for help, they can ask the world. According to Karen Hollowell, “being able to learn on a computer has opened up new ways for students to develop academically, especially those who struggle with a learning disorder” (Hollowell, 1999, 1). The World Wide Web offers countless websites that are designed to help students with certain academic issues. This saves the teacher hours of hard work trying to help the hard-to-reach children. Students are also able to use the World Wide Web for communication benefits. Before the invention of the World Wide Web, finding information on other cultures was difficult and not as affective because scholars could only access a limited amount of books. With the World Wide Web, scholars can “actually talk to people and find out firsthand through discussion boards, instant messaging and chat rooms” (Hollowell, 1999, 1). Tim Berners-Lee’s invention has made an extreme contribution to the education system because information about everything can now be accessed through the World Wide Web. A typical phrase hear today is that “you can find anything on the Internet”. Although there are some things that people do not want to find or see on the Internet, the original purpose still remains; the World Wide Web exists to better the education of the world.

Vannevar Bush was a man of many understandings; however it is what he did with those understandings that were important. He not only created significant inventions, he helped spread his knowledge and the knowledge of others around the world, creating a much more powerful universe. His work led to world changing inventions and has made the world the powerful place that it is now. Bush was never afraid to try something new, and because of his ambition and hard work he has affected the education system today.





Vannevar Bush: His Effect on the Education System


Page Author: BriAnne Pauley

Saturday, 11-Feb-2012 14:19



Bush, Vannevar. Endless Horizons,. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs, 1946. Print.

Bush, Vannevar, James M. Nyce, Owens, and Paul Kahn. From Memex to Hypertext: Vannevar Bush and the Mind's Machine. Boston: Academic, 1991. Print.

Bush, Vannevar. Modern Arms and Free Men: A Discussion of the Role of Science in Preserving Democracy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949. Print.
Bush, Vannevar. Pieces of the Action. New York: Morrow, 1970. Print.

Bush, Vannevar. Science Is Not Enough. New York: Morrow, 1967. Print.

Keep, Christopher, Tim McLaughlin, and Robin Parmar. "Vannevar Bush." The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. 1993-2000. Web. 21 Jan. 2012.

Long, Doug. "The Man Behind the Scenes of the Atomic Bomb." Vannevar Bush and the Atomic Bomb. Web. 21 Jan. 2012..

Zachary, G. Pascal. Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century. New York: Free, 1997. Print

 Herr, Jules, Greg Phoenix, and Bert Weidt. "As We Are Thinking: A Commentary on Vannevar Bush's As We May Think." Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.

"Vannevar Bush's Profile Tracer." National Museum of American History. Kenneth E. Behring Center. Web. 21 Jan. 2012.

Berners-Lee, Tim, and Mark Fischetti. Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999. Print.

Hollowell, Karen. "What Are the Benefits of Children Using Computers?" EHow | How to Videos, Articles & More - Discover the Expert in You. | 1999. Web. 05 Feb. 2012.


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