Oct 1, 2013

Six Degrees of Vannevar Bush

Add “Bacon Number” after any actor’s name in a Google search and you will find how many degrees of separation they are from Kevin Bacon.  This is based on movies or television shows that they appeared in together.  Vannevar Bush has a Bacon Number of 3 [1].
1.     Vannevar Bush and Robert Oppenheimer appeared in Atomic Power, a post-war documentary about the making of the atomic bomb and the birth of the nuclear age.
2.     Robert Oppenheimer and Gary Oldman appeared in Countdown to Zero, a documentary about the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons since the end of the cold war.
3.     Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon appeared in Criminal Law.
However, Robert Oppenheimer died before decades Gary Oldman narrated the documentary, Countdown to Zero which was released in 2010.  Nonetheless, it makes me think about how so many analog engineers are linked to Vannevar Bush.  Of course, under the banner of the United States Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) during World War II, six thousand scientists worked for Vannevar Bush.  So the odds were pretty good that many future analog legends were connected to him.
What’s your “Vannevar Number”?  Who have you worked with that also worked with Vannevar Bush?
Here are some people who have an NVannevar = 1:
·         Fred Terman, the so called “father of Silicon Valley” from Stanford University; studied under Bush at MIT and returned to work for him at the Radio Research Lab during WWII. [2]
·         Bill Hewlett studied under Bush while pursuing his MSEE at MIT in 1936. [need to confirm, timing was right]
·         George Philbrick worked in the fire control division of Bush’s National Defense Research Council (NDRC) during WWII.
·         Claude Shannon was a student of Bush at MIT.
·         Hendrik Bode was not a student of Bush, but worked in the NDRC under Bush during WWII.
·         William Shockley obtained his doctorate from MIT in 1936.  During WWII, Shockley became director of research of the anti-submarine warfare operations research group under Bush.
·         I’ll go out on a limb and say that Burr-Brown founder, Robert Page Burr, passed through Vannevar Bush’s organization when he trained in radar at MIT during WWII. [3, need to confirm]
·         Anyone who worked at Raytheon before WWII, since Bush founded this company.
·         Many engineers who graduated from MIT in the 1930s, since Bush taught there.
Here’s an interesting NVannevar = 2:
·         Bob Widlar’s father (Walter) worked under Bush in the anti-submarine warfare operations research group – so Bob Widlar is a 2.  Incidentally, Walter Widlar worked for Shockley. [4]

1.     www.google.com
2.     Fred Terman at Stanford, C. Stewart Gillmor, 2004
3.     http://paw.princeton.edu/memorials/42/64/index.xml
4.     History of Semiconductor Engineering, Bo Lojek

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