MIT is ... 36 (of Many) Pictures and Stories


"What is MIT?" Ask the MIT community to describe the Institute and you will hear a thousand different stories.

This exhibition features 36 photos by Michael Cardinali, who was commissioned by the MIT Museum to create a digital image collection documenting artifacts from an exhibition celebrating the first 150 years of MIT, with accompanying stories. While our selection is somewhat idiosyncratic, it is motivated by the desire to include a diverse selection of stories — from the sublime to the silly. We hope that something you see, or read, or discuss here inspires you to formulate your own response to the question: "What is MIT?"

The Story Behind This Image

In the 1950s, the MIT Food Technology Department's food irradiation research represented the cutting edge of the field. Taste-testers noted that one of the key drawbacks to irradiation was the way it altered food texture. Not surprisingly, department chair Bernard Proctor made the study of food texture a priority.

Aaron Brody completed his undergraduate degree in 1951 and immediately started his graduate studies under Proctor. His dissertation research studied all the factors affecting food texture, including storage and processing conditions as well as the effects of ingredients and cooking. Brody converted the department's "Strain Gage Denture Tenderometer" into an instrument for the objective measurement of food properties that had never before been considered measurable.

He gained some unexpected fame when his device was shown in Life magazine and other publications, but the most significant result was that manufacturers learned how everything from processing conditions, ingredients and formulations, cooking and even changes in storage conditions affected the final masticatory properties of a particular food item. That knowledge made possible a revolution in the design of future food products, foods carefully engineered with specific properties designed to maximize profitability in manufacture.

Pictured: Strain Gage Denture Tenderometer, Aaron Brody, 1956.