OPEN LETTER In preparation for MIT’s new campus centennial, <br />a modest proposal to Hockfield

The following petition was sent to President Susan J. Hockfield on June 25, 2010.

Back in 1915, President Richard C. Maclaurin undertook the monumental task of choosing a few pioneers of human thought, whose names would be commemorated by being carved in the walls of MIT’s buildings surrounding what is today Killian Court. The selection was not without controversy, but it produced what is without doubt one of the most characteristic and distinguishing features of MIT’s Cambridge campus and of the humanistic spirit that drives the minds working in it.

Almost a century has passed, and human knowledge has progressed exponentially since the Dome was built. Since President Maclaurin’s quest, new names have earned universal recognition for their contribution to fields of knowledge that are of interest to MIT, names that deserve to stand side to side with the giants of the past. As the new campus approaches its first centennial, there is an opportunity to celebrate those minds by commemorating their names. As 2016 approaches, it would be a fitting enterprise to conduct a new census of foundational and revolutionary figures that were not included in the previous list, and to enshrine their names in a fitting place within MIT.

Think about this, President Hockfield. Should Einstein’s name not be mentioned along with Newton’s? What about Marie Curie’s name, that pioneer not only of modern science, but also of the participation of women in the scientific enterprise? What about the names of so many others in so many other fields, such as science, engineering, architecture, biology and the humanities, whose ideas back in 1915 were either too recent or even not enunciated, but who have since then emerged victorious and reshaped our outlook of the world?

They were not included then, but we can confidently celebrate them now. I invite you to consider this and make it your project, as we approach the 2016 jubilee. Just as President Maclaurin did in March of 1915, you can request from the great minds inside MIT a list of the names of those even greater minds that have shaped their fields and have not yet been recognized yet in that pantheon of human knowledge that are the Killian Court carvings. Let us update the list of names inscribed outside of MIT’s walls, so that they may continue to serve as an inspiration for all of us that grow and sweat within them. And may this become a centennial tradition for MIT.