The rise of India as a technological and engineering force, and the parallel rise of Indian engineers and executives to the pinnacle of the industry, is a success story played out over 150 years of history. At the heart of that story is a fascinating relationship between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a higher education infrastructure in India that spurred the growth of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), modeled after MIT. In his new book The Technological Indian (2016, Harvard University Press), Professor Ross Bassett traces that international history, drawing on a unique database of every Indian to graduate from MIT between its founding and 2000. Bassett will chart this group’s ascent to the top levels of high-tech professions around the world in an engaging talk based on research conducted for his new book.
As a group of Indians sought a way forward for their country, they saw a future in technology. Bassett examines the tensions and surprising congruencies between this technological vision and Mahatma Gandhi’s nonindustrial modernity. The book shows how India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sought to use MIT-trained engineers to build an India where the government controlled technology for the benefit of the people. In the private sector, Indian business families sent their sons to MIT, while MIT graduates established India’s information technology industry.
By the 1960s, IIT students were drawn to the United States for graduate training and many of them stayed, becoming prominent industrialists, academics, and entrepreneurs. The MIT-educated Indian engineer became an integral part of a global system of technology-based capitalism. Yet, as Bassett shows, many focused less on India and its problems—a generation of technological Indians created without the regard for a technological India originally envisioned by the founders.
Please join us for a fascinating discussion with The Technological Indian author Ross Bassett and Museum CEO John Hollar.
Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard
Mountain View, CA, 94043