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Lincoln Laboratory turns 60

Recognition Day honors laboratory's contributions to the nation
The entrance to MIT Lincoln Laboratory today (above) and in previous years (right)
The entrance to MIT Lincoln Laboratory today (above) and in previous years (right)
Black and white photo of the exterior of Lincoln Laboratory

This year marks the 60th anniversary of MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s founding as a U.S. Department of Defense laboratory conducting research and development for national security. Throughout 2011, the laboratory has been celebrating the occasion with events and exhibits.

“This year of retrospection and activities honors the dedication and talent of the people, past and present, who have been responsible for Lincoln Laboratory’s legacy of technical innovation and excellence,” Lincoln Lab Director Eric Evans says.

The Heritage Lectures, a monthly series tracing the evolution of the laboratory, kicked off in February with Director Emeritus Walter Morrow SB ’49, SM ’51 giving an overview of Lincoln Laboratory’s establishment and initial project, the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment air-defense system. Subsequent talks have recapped work in areas such as satellite communications, ballistic missile defense and advanced electronics.

An online, interactive timeline traces the laboratory’s 60 years, highlighting 173 significant milestones with images and vignettes. “There is value in looking back at your history. When you see how much your predecessors accomplished without the wonderful solid-state electronics and computer processing we now enjoy, you are inspired and empowered to face today’s daunting problems with a new confidence,” says William Delaney SM ’59, a director’s office fellow, who gave the April Heritage Lecture on air-defense programs.

Looking ahead, the Distinguished Lectures, a series on emerging trends in science and engineering, will be delivered by innovators from industry. Speakers include Desh Deshpande, chairman of the Sparta Group and initial benefactor of MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation; Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA and co-founder of the educational foundation For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST); and Dave McQueeney, a developer of IBM’s Watson computer that “out-answered” the best Jeopardy! contestants.

On Wednesday, Recognition Day honored the laboratory’s contributions to the nation. Among the speakers at the courtyard ceremony for employees and invited guests were MIT President Susan Hockfield; Ashton Carter, U.S. under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; and Zachary Lemnios, assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. The U.S. Air Force Band of Liberty and a vocal ensemble of laboratory employees performed.

Connecting with MIT150

As part of MIT's 150th anniversary celebration, Lincoln Laboratory's technical achievements are featured both on the Institute's web-based timeline and in the MIT150 Exhibition at the MIT Museum. At MIT’s Next Century Convocation, the laboratory’s exhibit showcased noteworthy technological programs. During the April 30 “Under the Dome” open house on the Cambridge campus, laboratory engineers demonstrated robotics, voice-transformation systems, speaker and language identification and infrared cameras.

“The event was a unique opportunity to showcase our autonomous-systems efforts to a diverse community, including families from the MIT neighborhood and graduate students outside of the robotics field. I was especially impressed by the interest and intelligent questions from young people. They really seemed to make the connection between their experiences with educational robotics like FIRST and the national-security problems we are working to address,” says Mike Boulet SM ’08, of the Control Systems Engineering Group, who conducted the robotics demonstration with his colleague Byron Stanley SB ’99, SM '01.

The anniversary celebration also recognizes the important role of the lab’s staff. Developed for the 60th website, a series called "I Am Lincoln" presents first-person stories of a cross section of employees. “These profiles not only illustrate the experiences of the individuals but also collectively capture the qualities and dimensions that define Lincoln Laboratory,” says David Granchelli, manager of the Communications and Community Outreach Office. The series, currently presented in text and still photography, will expand throughout and beyond 2011; plans are to transition to video profiles.

Social events

On May 14, at a gala at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, more than 575 current and past employees and their guests enjoyed the galleries — including the new Art of the Americas wing and a special exhibit of artist Dale Chihuly’s blown-glass sculptures — along with dining and dancing. In September, employees and retirees are invited to bring family members to a daylong open house featuring exhibits, interactive science demonstrations and a picnic-style lunch.

In the fall, employees will receive gift copies of the revised version of the Laboratory’s history book, Technology in Support of National Security, originally published in 1995 as Technology in the National Interest. The book was updated to reflect the rapid advancement of technology and expansion into new research witnessed in the past 15 years. More than 100 people were involved in writing, editing and designing this volume that preserves the story of Lincoln Laboratory.

“The many people who participated in the 60th anniversary gained a sense of community. Whether they worked on the events or projects or they just enjoyed the activities, they came to appreciate the history and the culture here,” says Executive Officer John Kuconis, a principal organizer of the 60th celebration. “That’s the real value of the celebration.”

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