News Office covers world of ideas at MIT

If a race of advanced celestial beings ever sought to develop a deeper understanding of humankind's capacity for self-discovery, their journey might begin near the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For here, some of the brightest people on Planet Earth have converged to unravel its secrets.

Here at MIT, researchers invent giant telescopes to scan distant solar systems and use electron microscopes to peek at our genes and brain cells on a campus that is home to both rocket scientists and robots.

One resident genius was knighted for his work as "father of the World Wide Web" and a past professor was immortalized in the movie "A Beautiful Mind." Some years ago, Professor Frank Wilczek was taking a 5:30 a.m. shower when the call came from Sweden informing him he'd won a Nobel Prize in physics.

Yet those who view the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the world's pre-eminent knowledge factory – a place where modern-day Einsteins have perfected a Nobel Prize assembly line – see only part of the story.

MIT's founding president, William Barton Rogers, envisioned students participating in "the humane culture of the community," discovering and applying knowledge for the benefit of society.

Today MIT is the world's leading center for brain research, but it is also an institution rich in heart and soul, and the challenge of sharing the MIT story with the rest of the world falls to a small communications laboratory called the News Office, where staffers report not only on nanotechnology and human genome research, but also on efforts to harness the wind and mend broken hearts.

The mission statement speaks of cultivating in each member of the MIT community "the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind." Former MIT President Charles M. Vest, in a book reflecting on his 14 years of leadership, calls this "Pursuing the Endless Frontier."