Today in Boston by Ethan Underhill: 4/10/1861 — The Institute 🔋

It’s not every day that a career rut turns into a world-changing academic institution, but hey, that’s Boston, baby.

Our story begins in 1853 not by the Dirty Water, but down in Old Dominion with a fellow named William Barton Rogers, a seasoned professor of “Natural Philosophy” (read: Science) at the University of Virginia who introduced Charlottesville to geology.

But the son of the South wanted more. Specifically, he wanted to explore his revolutionary idea for a technical education that would not just accommodate, but bolster and shape the Industrial Revolution.

As these were pre-@LinkedIn days, Rogers also wanted to involve himself more with the #BostonSocietyofNaturalHistory and the Cambridge-based #AmericanAcademyofArtsandSciences.

So, he resigned from @UVA and shipped up to Boston to make his dreams come true.

Jury’s out, though, on what he did with the 6 slaves he owned before crossing the Mason Dixon.

Huh. It’s almost like slavery and the people that perpetuated it were entrenched in all facets of this country’s earliest institutions. Weird.

Once Rogers had established himself in Boston, he set to work lobbying the General Assembly, which by 1859 was considering options for a new plot of public land in Back Bay.

After 3 years of Beacon Hill arm-twisting, today in Boston, 1861, Governor John Albion Andrew signed the charter for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the Back Bay plot.

Shame for Bill Rogers as he hit the ground running to raise resources for the new college, but the Civil War broke out 2 days later. As you might imagine, this put a slight damper on fundraising. But Rogers persisted and became the first MIT President in 1862.

After @mitpics finally opened upon the war’s end in 1865 (#GoUnion!), it was nicknamed Boston Tech. This was no longer appropriate, though, in 1916 when the Institute officially moved to the Cambridge site we know and love.

93 Nobel laureates and a lot of other just wicked freakin’ smaht people later, I’d say Rogers achieved his goal.

But what do I know? I’m just a liberal arts major.

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