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Lynwood S. Bryant dies; history professor was 96

Lynwood Bryant
Lynwood Bryant

Lynwood Silvester Bryant, a professor of history, emeritus, whose research focused on the early inventors of the internal combustion engine, died after a brief illness on March 16, 2005. He was 96.

Philip Khoury, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and a professor of history said, "Professor Bryant was greatly admired by his faculty colleagues in the MIT humanities. He was an accomplished generalist, and his teaching and scholarship in the history of technology anticipated the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, founded just after he retired."

Bryant, a native of Keene, N.H., came to MIT in 1937 after teaching at the Roxbury Latin School in Boston. A member of the English and History Department (later the Humanities Department) until his retirement in 1975, Bryant taught courses in constitutional law, the history of the American West and the history of the automobile, among other things.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Bryant's articles on the early inventors and development of heat, diesel and automobile engines appeared in such significant publications as Scientific American. He was an early participant in the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), writing reviews for the society's journal, Technology and Culture, and publishing his own papers in it.

After retiring from MIT, Bryant spent two years as a senior resident scholar at the Hagley Foundation in Delaware. There he taught a memorable seminar, "The Automobile in America," and served as mentor and advisor to the next generation of historians of technology.

"Many of them remember Lynwood Bryant as a beautiful writer, a great scholar and a kind presence, full of interesting stories about MIT and his other colleagues in the history of technology," says Rosalind Williams, director of MIT's Program in Science, Technology and Society and current president of SHOT.

While at MIT, Bryant maintained his active interest in drama, especially the works of George Bernard Shaw. He and his wife, the former Louise "Dolly" Graham, served as the first housemasters of McCormick Hall from 1963 to 1967.

Charles Stewart, current housemaster of McCormick Hall and head of the Political Science Department, said, "We run into alumnae all the time who have fond memories of McCormick in the earliest days, and who especially remember the welcoming atmosphere created by Lynwood and Dolly Bryant."

Bryant retired finally to his summer home, an 1800s-era miller's house on Bearcamp Pond in East Sandwich, N.H. He continued his research and writing, with occasional trips to England and Germany. Working with Dolly and with the late Louis Hunter's family and friends, he helped to develop the third volume of Hunter's "A History of Industrial Power in the United States, 1780-1930."

He was active in Sandwich, participating in local boards, committees and activities. He took part in the Over-the-Hill Hikers, Sandwich Players and various musical activities.

Bryant graduated from the Mt. Hermon School and received AB and AM degrees from Harvard University in 1929 and 1938, respectively. He and Dolly Graham married in 1939.

He is survived by his wife; his twin sister, Laura B. Wyman of Dennis Port, Mass.; his son, Peter of Denver; two daughters, Susan Bryant-Kimball and her husband, Chip Kimball '72, of Sandwich, and Emily Bryant of Orford, N.H.; four grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Royal and his sister Elinore.

Memorial contributions may be made to the East Sandwich Meeting House and Cemetery Association, c/o Gerry Hambrook, 196 Vittum Hill Road, Sandwich, NH 03227.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 30, 2005 (download PDF).

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