Neil Gershenfeld

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Neil Gershenfeld
Neil Gershenfeld 2007.jpg
Neil Gershenfeld in January 2007.
Nationality United States
Fields Computer sciences
Institutions Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alma mater
Known for Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms

Neil A. Gershenfeld is an American professor at MIT and the director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, a sister lab to the MIT Media Lab. His research studies are predominantly focused in interdisciplinary studies involving physics and computer science, in such fields as quantum computing, nanotechnology, and personal fabrication. Gershenfeld attended Swarthmore College, where he graduated with a B.A. degree in physics with high honors, and Cornell University. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Scientific American has named Gershenfeld one of their "Scientific American 50" for 2004 and has also named him Communications Research Leader of the Year.[1] Gershenfeld is also known for releasing the Great Invention Kit in 2008, a construction set that users can manipulate to create various objects.[2]

Gershenfeld has been featured in a variety of newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times[3] and The Economist,[4] and on NPR.[5] He was named as one of the 40 modern-day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago.[6] Prospect named him as one of the top 100 public intellectuals.[7]

Teaching career[edit]

Neil Gershenfeld as keynote speaker at APMM 2010.

In 1998, Gershenfeld started a class at MIT called "How to make (almost) anything". Gershenfeld wanted to introduce expensive, industrial-size machines to the technical students. However, this class attracted a lot of students from various backgrounds: artists, architects, designers, students without any technical background. In his interview to CNN, Gershenfeld said that "the students... were answering a question I didn't ask, which is: What is this stuff good for? And the answer is: Not to make what you can buy in stores, but to make what you can't buy in stores. It's to personalise fabrication".[8] Gershenfeld believes that this is the beginning of a new revolution: digital revolution in fabrication that will allow people to fabricate things, machines on demand.

Gershenfeld has presented his course on "How to make (almost) anything" at the Association of Professional Model Makers (APMM) 2010 Conference.[9]

This class later has led Gershenfeld to create Fab lab[10] in collaboration with Bakhtiar Mikhak at MIT. Gershenfeld feels very passionate about this project, as he believes that teaching kids how to use technology and create it themselves will empower the future generations to become more independent and create technology that each individual community needs, not a technology that is currently available on the market. Fab labs have spread around the world, having been established in the remotest of places and countries. In his interview with Discover magazine on the question what personal fabrication might be useful for, Gershenfeld said, "There is a surprising need for emergent technologies in many of the least developed places on the planet. While our needs might be fairly well met, there are billions of people on the planet whose needs are not. Their problems don't need incremental tweaks in current technology, but a revolution".[11]

As well as "How to make (almost) anything" class, Gershenfeld has started teaching the following classes: "How To Make Something That Makes (almost) Anything", "The Physics of Information Technology", "The Nature of Mathematical Modeling".[12]


Gershenfeld with James Randi at TAM 5.

Neil Gershenfeld and his students have done an extensive amount of research.[13] His research was published in Science (journal) as well as in The American Physical Society journal. Amongst many is the research on Experimental Implementation of Fast Quantum Searching,[14] Microfluidic Bubble Logic research,[15] Physical one-way functions.[16]



  1. ^ "The Scientific American 50". Scientific American. December 2004. p. 47. 
  2. ^ Greenberg, Andy. "Invention kits let you build (almost) anything". NBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Anand Giridharadas (13 May 2011). "The Kitchen-Table Industrialists". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  4. ^ From the printed edition (9 June 2005). "How to make (almost) anything". The Economist. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Making of a Personal Lab". 11 November 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Modern-Day Leonardos". Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "Intellectuals—the results". Prospect. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Fareed Zakaria (17 July 2013). "On GPS: Future of digital fabrication". CNN website. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "APMM 2010 Conference - Keynote Professor Neil Gershenfeld". Prototype Today. 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Ernie Tretkoff (6 April 2006). "Gershenfeld Hopes to Spearhead a Fab-ulous Revolution". American Physical Society. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Svitil, Kathy A. (1 January 2003). "Physicist Neil Gershenfeld—Time to Make the Computer Vanish". Discover (Kalmbach Publishing) 26 (1). Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Neil Gershenfeld. "List of Neil Gershenfeld classes". Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Neil Gershenfeld biography". Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Experimental Implementation of Fast Quantum Searching". The American Physical Society. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  15. ^ Neil Gershenfeld, Manu Prakash (9 February 2007). "Microfluidic Bubble Logic". Science. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Neil Gershenfeld, Ravikanth Pappu, Ben Recht, Jason Taylor (20 September 2002). "Physical one-way functions". Science. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 

External links[edit]