National Medal of Science
For his distinguished achievements in electrical engineering, in the technology of computing machines, in the effective coupling of the physical and life sciences; and in his mobilizing science, engineering and education in enduring ways in the service of the Nation.
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BirthMarch 11, 1890
Country of BirthUSA
Key ContributionsProximity Fuze For Artillery Shells
Awarded byLyndon Baines Johnson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Areas of ImpactTransportation
Communication & Information
AffiliationsCarnegie Institution of Washington
Other PrizesNational Inventors Hall of Fame
In 1945, atomic bombs detonated over Japan, securing America’s victory in World War II. If not for the persistence of one man, however, things might have turned out differently.
Vannevar Bush, initiator of the Manhattan Project – a secret endeavor to build America’s first nuclear weapon – feared the Nazis might beat America to the punch.
“... the result in the hands of Hitler might indeed enable him to enslave the world,” Bush wrote in “Pieces of the Action,” a memoir. “It was essential to get there first.”
During the war, Bush, an MIT engineer and founder of electronics company Raytheon, led the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, which oversaw the creation of new weapons.
In addition to the a-bomb, Bush spearheaded the development of the proximity fuze, an explosive that detonates near a target.
“This has not been a scientist’s war,” he wrote in The Atlantic Monthly in 1945. “It has been a war in which all have had a part.”