50th Anniversary

Professor Ruth Perry: What We Offer to MIT

A Brief History

1964-1969

The Rev. Myron Bloy, Jr. inaugurated the Seminar on Technology and Culture at MIT. The 56 faculty members in the seminar included representatives from across the disciplines at MIT. The roster featured the current president of MIT, Julius Stratton, and two future presidents of the Institute, Jerome Weisner and Paul Gray.

1969-1977

The Rev. John Crocker, Jr., our second convener, had a passion for the philosophy and psychology of science. During his tenure, the seminar hosted lectures by Simone Weil, Elie Wiesel, Robert Coles, Parker Palmer, Alasdair MacIntyre and Noam Chomsky. In 1974–76, the Seminar devoted two years to an in-depth study of Technology, Merit, and Equality in a Just Society.

1978-1994

As our third convener, the Rev. Scott Paradise expanded the public outreach of the seminar, attracting an average of 125 attendees to the over 150 forums he offered over his remarkable sixteen-year tenure. In 1988, Patricia Weinmann joined the staff of the Technology and Culture Forum. Under Paradise’s guidance, the seminar focused on three key concerns of the time: the global arms race, economic justice, and environmental sustainability.

Notable Programs on the Arms Race

1979-80 John Kenneth Galbraith
1984-85 Philip Morrison and Victor Weisskopf, “40 Years After: Los Alamos, MIT and the Bomb”
1987-88 Willy Brandt, former Chancellor of West Germany and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Notable Programs on Economic Justice

1980-81 Series of talks by prominent labor organizers
1981-82 Ralph Nader, “The Social Responsibility of the Engineer”

Notable Programs on Environmental Sustainability

1979 World Council of Churches Conference on Faith, Science and the Future
1987-88 James Lovelock, formulator of the Gaia Hypothesis
1989-90 Frank Press, president of the National Academy of Science, on global warming

1994-2001

The Rev. Jane Soyster Gould came on board as the fourth Coordinator. In 1994, the program’s name changed to the Technology and Culture Forum. When Institute funding ended in 1994, MIT alumni and friends of Technology and Culture stepped forward to support our work. In 1995, we welcomed the first student members of our Steering Committee.

Gould broadened the scope of the program to address such timely issues as the growth of the Internet, globalization, advances in human genetics, and the decline of traditional media.

2001-2010

The Rev. Amy McCreath arrived as the fifth Coordinator of the Technology and Culture Forum shortly before the attacks on September 11. She responded with three programs: Noam Chomsky on the war on terror, Karen Armstrong on the hijacking of religion, and a panel on the media and the war in Afghanistan. In the following years, we held a variety of programs examining the impact of 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

We supported student initiatives by sponsoring the annual International Development Fair from 2002 to 2012 and by placing a stronger focus on the rights and concerns of women. We offered outstanding programs on moral psychology, including “What Good is Evil?” in 2004 and “The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil“ in 2007.

In 2007, we collaborated with Boston Latin School on the first of our annual YouthCAN Climate Summits.

In 2009, we celebrated our 45th anniversary with a program on “The Social Responsibility of The Scientist” with the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

Also in 2009, Sally Haslanger and Patricia Weinmann taught the first of our undergraduate Ethics Seminars.

2010-2012

As our sixth Coordinator, the Rev. Mary Jane Donahue, brought a passion for the marginalized, sponsoring programs on bullying, human trafficking, and same-sex marriage. In response to the Occupy movements of 2010, we hosted “Minding the Gap”, a very popular forum on income inequality. We continued our commitment to programs on nuclear technology by co-sponsoring the Bustani Middle East Seminar and the MIT chapter of Global Zero.

2013

The Rev. Thea Keith-Lucas now serves as our seventh Coordinator. Together with Patricia Weinmann, she began rethinking the program’s name and image in order to increase our visibility and better support ethical reflection and inquiry.