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MIT – the perfect place for me

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The book that influenced my application to MIT
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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I think when I really opened up to teachers was when I went to MIT. So I had... I had read a science fiction book called Have Space Suit-Will Travel by Heinlein. And in that story the kid wins a space suit in the lottery and gets to go to space and he ends up saving the world and getting the girl and... And as a prize for him saving the world they give him a scholarship to MIT. And I didn't know what MIT was but I decided that's where I wanted to go, if that was, you know, the prize that you got for saving the world.

I didn't even know what MIT stood for but when people said where are you going to go to college I just said MIT. I never thought about going any place else. And I didn't even apply to any place else. And you know, fortunately I was lucky having Kristiakowsky as my... You know, I worked for him. And in retrospect, you know, a recommendation for him pretty much guaranteed me to get in. I didn't know any of this. And I had a really great science teacher and she wrote me a recommendation. So I had good recommendations and so I got into MIT early admission. And then I realised, really there there's no point in showing up to high school anymore. And so I didn't. So I never showed up for my high school graduation, I never graduated, but...

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Have Space Suit-Will Travel, Massachussets Intitute of Technology, George Kristiakowsky, Robert Heinlein

Duration: 1 minute, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017