MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXVI No. 5
May / June 2014
A Letter to the Class of 2014
Faculty Establish Campus
Planning Committee
Remarks Occasioned by the Draft Report of the MITx Subcommittee of the FPC
Governance Highlights: Year in Review
OCW Educator: Sharing the "How" as well as the "What" of MIT Education
What's Old is New: Learning from the Past
Frank P. Davidson
The Mens' Kick Line
Part of MIT Strong!
from the 2014 Senior Survey
from the 2014 Senior Survey
Printable Version

In Memoriam

Frank P. Davidson

Ernst G. Frankel

Frank Davidson spent nearly 40 years at MIT. As a Senior Research Associate he worked on macro or large-scale problems with Jay Forrester and others, and was Chairman of the System Dynamics Steering Committee, Sloan School of Management, and Coordinator of the Macro-Engineering Research Group in the School of Engineering.

Though a lawyer by profession, Frank had a unique talent for bringing people together and was interested in significant issues. He worked with President Franklin Roosevelt in organizing the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), which not only reduced unemployment but trained people for meaningful jobs. He was also a leader in advancing the English Channel tunnel. Frank similarly developed and publicized the concept of macro-engineering as a new discipline designed to address large-scale problems.

But perhaps most importantly, Frank had a unique knack for bringing people and ideas together. Frank’s meetings and lunches not only attracted people with diverse interests, but also generated vivid discussions of important issues and problems.

Macro-engineering became a global concept under Frank’s guidance with branches in Japan, the UK, the U.S., and elsewhere. Frank’s knack for both getting interesting people together and also getting them to identify and address important global problems became increasingly popular, and Frank’s meetings were magnets for exciting people interested in addressing and discussing global issues and problems. These meetings generated not only fascinating ideas, concepts, and issues, but also served to identify real problems and their causes.

The meetings, combined with Frank’s charm, brought many  important issues and problems into the limelight, which in turn identified opportunities for new technological approaches and cooperation among people with a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, and disciplines.

Frank always led in identifying opportunities for the betterment of mankind. One, among the many ideas Frank advanced and promoted, was evacuated tube transport. This began with the laying of a half-mile tube across MIT’s playing fields, evacuating the tube, and shooting ping pong balls and toy trains through it. The concept was later developed into a Boston-NY evacuated tube train concept, with a 20-ft. diameter tube laid along a coastal trench in shallow water to serve as a train track for maglev trains travelling at speeds of over 300 mph, thus traversing the distance in less than 40 minutes – fully half the time of air travel!

Frank will be sorely missed.

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