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New Book Details History and Future of Kendall Square


“This sliver of Cambridge continues to change fast and furiously. Some people even think it’s a little out of control. Welcome to Kendall Square.”

Thus begins Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub, a new book published by the MIT Press on Tuesday, May 10, about the most innovative square mile kilometer on earth.

Written by Robert Buderi, former MIT Technology Review editor-in-chief and founder of the media company Xconomy, Where Futures Converge details the area’s history from the 1600s to today. Buderi also interviews Kendall Square luminaries about the current biotech boom and its predecessors in artificial intelligence; ruminates on what new entrepreneurial advances and ecosystems are on the horizon; and corrects popular anecdotes like the “square mile” slogan.

Unsurprisingly, many MIT Sloan alumni, faculty, staff, and former students figure prominently in the 300-page account—which makes perfect sense, considering the school’s proximity to Kendall Square. As Fiona Murray (Associate Dean for Innovation and Inclusion; William Porter (1967) Professor of Entrepreneurship) tells Buderi, “[Kendall is] one of the most special innovation ecosystems in the world, but it’s a little easier to get your head around because it’s more geographically concentrated than Silicon Valley.”

Consider the example of Akamai Technologies, currently headquartered in Kendall Square’s western half at 145 Broadway. Throughout Chapter 14, Buderi charts the rise of the internet company from its inception at the MIT Media Lab to its conceptual debut at what was then called the MIT 50K Entrepreneurship Competition, the annual contest led by Ed Roberts SB ’57, SM ’58, SM ’60, PhD ’62, and others. Four of Akamai’s five co-founders hailed from MIT, and two of them—Preetish Nijhawan, MBA ’98, and Jonathan Seelig—were MIT Sloan students.

Beyond specific companies, there is the story of Lotte Bailyn (T Wilson (1953) Professor of Management Emerita; Professor, Work and Organization Studies Emerita), the second woman to receive tenure at MIT Sloan, who made waves as chair of the MIT faculty from 1997 to 1999. Bailyn advocated for making public a MIT School of Science committee’s confidential report concerning “clear and widespread inequities between men and women [faculty members], not just in lab space, but also in pay and other benefits.”

The public version of the report, which originated from observations made by Nancy Hopkins (Amgen Professor of Biology Emerita), is one in a series of events that led to the formation of the Future Founders Initiative, a collaboration between faculty and business leaders that aims to help women faculty learn about and build the connections necessary for starting a business. The direct result of Hopkins, Sangeeta Bhatia, SM ’93, PhD ’97 (John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology), and Susan Hockfield (President Emerita; Professor of Neuroscience), this initiative—and the contribution Bailyn made to its underpinnings—will forever change the makeup of Kendall Square.

Even so, as Buderi told an attentive audience at the Hayden Library on Tuesday, the area that eventually became Kendall Square has always been a “natural convergence for commerce” in the region. From providing a more direct route between Boston and Harvard Square in the late 1700s to becoming a world leader in rubber making and pavement technologies in the early 1900s, Kendall Square has been a hub of entrepreneurial innovation for a long time.

And for the past century, in one form or another, MIT Sloan has been right next door.

Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub is now available wherever books are sold.

For more info Andrew Husband Senior Writer & Editor, OER (617) 715-5933