When MIT was established in 1861, the founders did not include advanced degrees in their plans. Even undergraduate degrees were not mentioned in the original charter, and it wasn’t until May of 1868, as the first class was about to graduate, that MIT was given degree-granting power by the Massachusetts legislature. The first few groups of students who completed all undergraduate requirements received a diploma conferring on them “the Degree of Graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of . . .” It wasn’t until 1872 that the faculty recommended that the undergraduate degree be "Bachelor of Science, with the title S.B.," and that if graduate studies be added to the curriculum, the degree should be "Doctor of Science, with the title S.D."
Although the matter of advanced work leading to graduate degrees was discussed by the faculty and Corporation as early as 1872, it wasn’t until 1907 that MIT awarded the first doctoral degrees, Ph.D.'s. Professor Arthur Amos Noyes, director (and founder, in 1903) of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Physical Chemistry, supervised the initial crop of doctoral dissertations. Three graduate students in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, who had been conducting research in the lab, applied for the written and oral examination, passing requirements in May 1907. Raymond Haskell, Robert B. Sosman, and Morris A. Stewart received their Ph.D.'s in Chemical Engineering a month later in June. Professor Noyes, enthusiastic that an era of “advanced work” had begun, expressed the hope that other laboratories would soon follow suit.
Raymond Haskell spent most of his subsequent career as a consulting engineer for Texas Oil Company. Robert Sosman was a consulting chemist, assistant director of the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution, assistant director and physical chemist of the Research Laboratory of U.S. Steel Corporation, and professor of ceramics at Rutgers University. Morris Stewart spent most of his working life in the chemical division of the U.S. Patent Office.
The MIT Archives preserves all master’s degree theses and doctoral dissertations submitted to the Institute, as well as bachelor’s degree theses selected for preservation by some departments. Paper copies, bearing the signatures of the author, supervisor, and departmental chair on their title pages, remain MIT’s official copies of record. Most theses in the Archives are maintained in a state-of-the-art off-site storage facility, necessitating advance notice for retrieval. All recently submitted theses are scanned, bound, and cataloged for inclusion in Barton, the MIT Libraries’ online catalog. After cataloging, theses are uploaded to DSpace at MIT, a digital repository that provides convenient international access to the work of MIT scholars. An MIT student also has the option of submitting an electronic version (an “e-thesis”) in addition to the paper version to his or her department. The MIT Libraries is currently engaged in a project — PETE (Planning for E-Thesis Enhancement) — to improve this process.
More information about DSpace at MIT , the submission of paper and electronic theses, and the history of research and learning at MIT is available in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.
Object of the Month: December 2007