Why Boston?

For four hundred years, Boston breakthroughs have changed how the world lives. Why here? Why is Boston historically a hotbed for creative discovery in medicine, biotechnology, information technology finance, and education to name a few?

Boston's independent spirit nourishes a certain genius, a knack for taking on the existing ways of doing things and changing them. It is no surprise that Boston was the birthplace of the American Revolution. It is also home to a second revolution, one in ideas stimulated by writers and philosophers like Longfellow, Thoreau, and Emerson, who originated a truly American culture in the 1830s. Boston helped to foster a strong abolitionist movement that contributed to the end of slavery, and a century later Boston was one of the catalysts for the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements. Dissent from the existing way of understanding the world leads to innovation. Today Boston is the center of a biotechnology revolution. Tomorrow? Nanotechnology?

From colonial times to now, innovative Bostonians, drawn here by economic, social, and educational opportunities, have exhibited an individual rebelliousness, stimulated by the juxtaposition of so many and varied financial, educational, and industrial institutions. Innovators are supporter by the academic freedom of nearly 70 institutions of higher learning, enterprising spin-off companies, a supportive venture capital community, and law firms that specialize in patents and copyrights. Collaboratively they create a region in which innovation thrives, generation after generation.

On these pages you will meet a few of the people who had "big ideas" and challenged the existing way of doing things - with many different Boston accents. The slave Onesimus, people from rural areas with a dream like Ellen Swallow Richards or Percy Spencer, immigrants like Alexander Graham Bell, graduate students who stay - all contribute to the depth and variety of thought, industry, and finance that is Boston.

Let us know what you think about Boston not just as the home of the colonial revolution, but as the cradle of Boston's other revolutions, with innovations by men and women who challenged the existing ways of thinking and doing, repeated over and over, and so have contributed mightily to the nation and the world.

Read about some of the familiar, and surprising, discoveries that happened first in Boston and changed how folks live. More than 25 organizations, from MIT and Northeastern to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and Boston University, and a hundred researchers and scholars have worked on this project for more than four years as part of our Working Committee, sifting out the stories and the facts.

Why Boston? We invite you to read the book, take the tour, and come up with your own answers.

Dr. Bob Krim
The Innovation Odyssey Working Committee
Boston History & Innovation Collaborative