I just wanted to write about Vannevar Bush (no relation to the president) because I think most people in technology probably underestimate the influence this man has had in our industry and most interestingly the world at large. Bush was the science adviser to FDR (Roosevelt) during world war II. He is credited with creating the National Science Foundation (NSF), the military funding of science (which led to ARPA, the internet, etc), the memex (which seeded hypertext and modern personal computing), and the thinking after WWII that science is a precursor to technology which led to the creation of R&D divisions in modern day companies. He was close friends to James Conant, president of Harvard who modernized that institution from being a finishing school for the wealthy to a meritocracy for leaders, introducing achievements tests for entry and other things like it. Some of Bush's graduate students included Claude Shannon, one of the founders of information theory, and Frederick Terman, who seeded silicon valley as provost of Stanford University and whose PhD students included Bill Hewlett and David Packard. (Him and Shockley, of Shockley Labs are credited with the foundations of the valley).
I might as well highlight to non-americans that Franklin Delano Roosevelt is considered the most important president of the US in the 20th century, and only comparable in his stature to Washington and Lincoln. Really. So Bush having been an adviser to him is amazing. FDR was elected 4 times, yes 4 times! to the presidency as this was before 2-term limit were imposed (1933-1945). He's the only US president to have served more than 2 terms. Now just to give you some perspective, he was elected in 1933 in the throes of the great depression. He rallied the country of this economic misery to take them through 13 years of growth and betterment (he died in office) all across WWII.
Now just to try to give you a feel for the span with which he took the country, below is a photo of the great depression, with its barn-like poverty feel you can imagine the country he began with in 1933, and then the one he left it with, a photograph of Gen MacArthur landing on the Philippines in 1945. These are two completely different countries. The great depression was an America still closely tied to the 19th century. It's misunderstood economic system (leading to the mistakes which became the great depression), still very rural, vast poverty, and industrialization and technology which was either barren or uncontrolled. And the America he left in place is the one we know today, technologized, with a social doctrine (compared to the great depression it was huge advance), a science program, the atom bomb, able to take care of its citizens, etc.
I'll write more about Vannevar Bush in the next post. Trying to keep pieces shorter.
(photographs are all from wikipedia, just linking to their site to get the photographs shown and make the articles more readable, not just text)