Where did the Internet, Stealth, GPS, and Covid mRNA vaccines come from? The Role of DARPA in Fostering Disruptive Technologies – William Bonvillian


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This lecture will take place at the Wilton Historical Society

In the 17th year of the collaboration between Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society, the scholarly lecture series will focus on the theme of “Innovation, Disruption, Revolution: The Impact of Technological Advancement.” In this lecture, William Bonvillian, MIT lecturer and Wilton resident, will discuss the crucial role of the U.S. government in the development of everything from the internet to COVID vaccines. Its role has been not just in funding the research that led to these huge technological advances but also in bridging the enormous gap between fundamental scientific breakthroughs and their commercially successful applications. One of the most extraordinary engines over the past half century for identifying breakthroughs and bridging them to real-world application is DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and, later, its “clones” in other government agencies beyond the U.S. Department of Defense that is DARPA’s home. This session will describe those technological breakthroughs and illuminate DARPA’s (and its clones’) role in bringing them about.

Bill Bonvillian

Bill Bonvillian is a Lecturer at MIT and a Senior Director at MIT’s program for Open Learning. From 2006 until 2017, he was Director of MIT’s Washington office, supporting MIT’s long-standing role in science policy. He teaches courses on science and technology policy at MIT and is author of five books on innovation policy, including a 2020 book on DARPA. Previously, he worked for over 15 years on innovation issues as a senior advisor in the U.S. Senate, and earlier was a Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of Transportation. He has served on two National Academy of Science Boards and nine other NAS committees and was named a Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. He is a Wilton resident and Wilton High School graduate and has degrees from Columbia, Yale and Columbia Law.

Reception following the talks. No charge but a $10 suggested donation is always welcomed. Click here to donate.

This series is sponsored by Laureen Mody. The moderator for this lecture is Steve Hudspeth. Registration required. Please register for each lecture individually. Please register online or call 203-762-6334.

Click here to view the entire lecture series program.