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Department of Humanities

Heads of the department

Howard Russell Bartlett 1954-1962
Richard M. Douglas 1962-1973
Harold J. Hanham 1973-1974, Acting Head
Bruce Mazlish 1974-1980, Acting Head and Head
Peter H. Smith 1980-1981

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology began offering classes in the humanities and related subjects when students were first admitted in 1865. These courses were intended to supplement the curriculum in science and engineering and to prepare students for adult life. Over the years, MIT’s humanities and social science programs have undergone phases of expansion, contraction, and restructuring.

In 1932 MIT President Karl Taylor Compton proposed a new plan of administration, dividing the Institute into three schools and two divisions including the Division of Humanities. In 1950 the division became the School of Humanities and Social Studies and in 1959, the School of Humanities and Social Science. In 1954 the departments of English and history merged to form the Department of Humanities. Sections in philosophy (1961), music (1961), and literature (1962) were later added to the department. In 1971 philosophy became a separate department, and anthropology was added to the Department of Humanities. In 1975 the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics was discontinued, and foreign languages joined the Department of Humanities.

In 1982 the six sectionsAnthropology/Archaeology, Foreign Languages and Literatures, History, Literature, Music, and Writingin the Department of Humanities became more autonomous, with their own section chairs and increased responsibility for curriculum, appointment, and budgetary affairs. The Humanities Undergraduate Office was established to provide coordination for the sections, and the position of department head was eliminated.

Prepared by the Institute Archives, MIT Libraries
November 1995