Douglas C. Engelbart
Stanford Research Institute
Menlo Park, California


 

May 24, 1962

Dr. Vannevar Bush
Professor Emeritus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts


Dear Dr. Bush:

I wish permission from you to extract lengthy and definitely acknowledged quotes from your article, "As We May Think," that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, July, 1945. These quotes would appear in a report that I am writing for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and I am sending a parallel request to The Atlantic Monthly.

For your information I am enclosing a relatively brief and quite general writeup describing the program that I am trying to develop here at Stanford Research Institute. The report which I am writing (and for which I am requesting quotation permission from you) is a detailed description of the conceptual structure that I have developed over the years to orient my pursuit of this objective of increasing the individual human's intellectual effectiveness. It will also contain a number of examples of the way in which new equipment can lead to new methods and improved effectiveness, to illustrate my more general (but nonnumerical) framework, and your article is quite the best that I have found in print to offer examples of this.

I might add that this article of yours has probably influenced me quite basically. I remember finding it and avidly reading it in a Red Cross library on the edge of the jungle on Leyte, one of the Phillipine [sic] Islands, in the Fall of 1945. Subsequently, l went back and finished my B.S. in E.E. after the war (Oregon State), and worked for the NACA at Moffett Field (near here) until 1951, when I got fed up with my goalless role. I formulated then the goal for which this program represents the pursuit vehicle, spent years in graduate school at the University of California (Berkeley), taught there a while, and finally ended up here-- choosing SRI as a place where I would have a good chance to work toward developing such a program. I had had almost nothing but negative reactions from people up to then, and for several years here, too.

But the climate has changed of late, and for two years I have personally been able to spend almost full time trying to lay the conceptual groundwork for launching a serious research program on "human intellectual effectiveness." I think I have a good approach developed for such a program, and we are trying to get it supported and started. Our OSR support has been for half of my time in this pre-program study, and the report for them will hopefully lay out considerations and reasoning that can show most readers where the promise and possibilities are for future improvement of our intellectual capability, and what is a reasonable approach to pursue these possibilities.

I re-discovered your article about three years ago, and was rather startled to realize how much I had aligned my sights along the vector you had described. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the reading of this article sixteen and a half years ago hadn't had a real influence upon the course of my thoughts and actions.

If you still have interest in this area and have the time and energy to give it some occasional consideration, l would be most happy to send you a copy of the report. (It is more than just a report to a government agency. For me it is more the public debut of a dream, and the overdue birth attests to my emotional involvement.)

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Douglas C. Engelbart

Senior Research Engineer

Program on Human Effectiveness Enclosure