The RLE Incubator

RLE’s ability to encourage efforts in multiple disciplines has made the Laboratory an extraordinary incubator of activities that have grown to be MIT departments and some of the major research centers of MIT.

1951 – RLE research in continental air defense, associated with MIT’s Project Charles, helps to spawn MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

1956 – RLE begins collaboration with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary to form the new Eaton-Peabody Laboratory, where RLE’s Nelson Y.S. Kiang is the first director.

1961 – The MIT Department of Linguistics is formed, with major part of its nucleus composed of RLE researchers in human communication.

1963 – J.C.R. Licklider, formerly of RLE, funds ARPA’s Project MAC at MIT with RLE’s Robert M. Fano as its first director. Project MAC spawns both the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory in 1970 and the Laboratory of Computer Science (LCS) in 1975. The two laboratories later merge to become the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in 2003.

1976 – MIT’s Plasma Fusion Center (now the Plasma Science and Fusion Center) is formed, with a significant part of its nucleus composed of RLE’s research in experimental plasma physics and engineering.

2000 – RLE’s Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics group joins with colleagues from Harvard University to form the Center for Ultracold Atoms, a major new NSF center.