We seek to empower people of all ages to invent, use, and tweak technology, thus putting humans in control.
The Lemelson Center had a dynamic 2018, featuring significant public engagement ranging from Draper Spark!Lab at the National Museum of American History to the expanding Spark!Lab network to invention and innovation festivals and our Innovative Lives program series. We brought increased focus to our emerging work on sports invention and technology, undertaking research, a new video series, and plans for speakers and panels across the United States and internationally in coming years, all leading up to a new exhibition in the Lemelson Hall.
The year started and ended for the Center with Innovative Lives programs. In early February, we featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaking about his own life and legacy as well as his book for children about African American inventors. In late November, we celebrated the pioneers of Spacewar!, a video game coded at MIT in late 1961 and early 1962 that would become seminal to the emergence of a new creative industry.
Our scholarly and public history work also continues to grow, with an expanding pipeline of forthcoming books in the MIT Press Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation, a diverse group of visiting scholars ranging from the mid-career Molella Fellow to early-career graduate students and post-docs, and active research and publishing by team members.
During 2018, the media’s breathless reporting on new technologies continued, ranging from drones that carry people to artificial intelligence algorithms that threaten seemingly stable job categories. Our approach is more measured as we seek to empower people of all ages to invent, use, and tweak technology, thus putting humans in control. Over the past year, attention also was drawn to analyses of lower rates of patenting by women, African Americans, and other minorities relative to their demographic size. A variety of institutions are aiming to broaden pathways to becoming an inventor. In our work, we likewise are giving renewed attention to historically underserved groups, inspiring and encouraging young people while seeking to identify gaps and “hidden figures” in the history of invention.
The coming year will see the Center building out new initiatives in sports invention, ranging from public history to exciting forms of public engagement, including an Innoskate program in London in May. And we will continue to break ground in studies of video game pioneers, create dynamic new hands-on activities for Spark!Lab, recover hidden and erased stories in invention history, and explore new collaborations across the United States and internationally.
Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Director