History

This timeline serves as a snapshot of the contributions and breakthroughs of LIDS researchers over the past eight decades.

1940s

Servomechanism Lab established at MIT in 1940
Gordon Brown, Founding Director (1940-1952)

 

Leadership in theory and education in servomechanisms
Classic textbook Principles of Servomechanisms by Brown and Campbell

 

WWII military applications
Lab plays leadership role in fire control system development. Lab researchers design control and power systems for the U.S. Army’s 37mm gun mount and 40mm gun.

 

The Brookhaven Project
Lab researchers design power drives, instrumentation, and controls for reactor rods in the first peacetime nuclear reactors.

 

The Aircraft Stability and Control Analyzer (Whirlwind) Project
A powerful computer capable of simulating aircraft dynamics, WHIRLWIND I contributes to the development of random access, magnetic core memory.

 

Numerically controlled machines
Pioneering work on using digital computers as elements in control systems.
 

1950s

Directors
Gordon Brown (1940-1952), William Pease (1952-1953), J. Francis Reintjes (1953-1973)

 

Leadership in theory and education in feedback control
Several influential textbooks, including Analytical Design of Linear Feedback Controls by Newton, Gould, and Kaiser.

 

APT system and the beginnings of CAD
Lab develops automatic programming to facilitate continuous path control of machine tools.

 

Project Porcupine
Joint project with MIT Lincoln Laboratory focuses on developing pulse-doppler radar for air defense.

 

Lab’s name changed to Electronic Systems Laboratory in 1959
 

1960s

Director
J. Francis Reintjes (1953-1973)

 

Leadership in theory and education in modern control
ESL faculty plays leadership role in state space methods, optimal and stochastic control, estimation. Several influential textbooks, including Optimal Control by Athans and Falb, and Finite Dimensional Linear Systems by Roger Brockett.

 

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Project
APT broadens to a system for the computer as a central element throughout the manufacturing process. Automatic Engineering Design programming language developed.

 

Project INTREX
Lab introduces the first major pioneering program in digital information transfer and retrieval.
 

1970s

Directors
J. Francis Reintjes (1953-1973), Michael Athans (1974-1981)

 

Leadership in theory and education in advanced control methods
ESL faculty continues to play leadership roles in linear-quadratic-Gaussian (LQG control), estimation and detection, optimization and dynamic programming, and the emerging topics of large-scale systems and decentralized control. Several influential texts including The Analysis of Feedback Systems by Jan Willems.

 

Avionics applications
Lab develops systems for cockpit air traffic situation displays, adaptive aircraft control, and automatic avionic failure detection.

 

Lab’s name changed to Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS) in 1978
Reflecting a broadened intellectual agenda to include large-scale and networked systems and applications in manufacturing, transportation, econometrics, and data communication networks.
 

1980s

Directors
Michael Athans (1974-1981), Sanjoy Mitter (1981-1986), Co-Directors Sanjoy Mitter and Robert Gallager (1986-1999)

 

Leadership in theory and education
Significant advances in communication networks, optimization, nonlinear estimation, statistical signal and image processing. Numerous influential texts including Data Networks by Bertsekas and Gallager, and Signals and Systems by Oppenheim and Willsky.

 

The Center for Intelligent Control Systems founded
Funded by the U.S. Army, the joint endeavor with Brown and Harvard universitiesfocuses on fundamental advances in the information and decision sciences broadly defined.

 

Robust control and control system design
LIDS pioneers theoretical work sparking the emerging field of robust control and advances in adaptive control. Significant advances in numerical algorithms for control design and large-scale optimization.

 

Applications
The range of applications within LIDS continues to broaden to include distributed control and incident detection in traffic systems and military command and control systems.
 

1990s

Directors
Co-Directors Sanjoy Mitter and Robert Gallager (1986-1999), Vincent Chan (1999-2007)

 

Leadership in theory and education
Continued leadership in new courses at MIT – in robust control, identification, wireless networks, and optimization. Numerous texts including Control of Uncertain Systems: A Linear Programming Approach by Dahleh and Diaz-Bobillo, Representation and Control of Infinite Dimensional Systems by Bensoussan, Da Prato, Delfour, and Mitter, and Neurodynamic Programming by Bertsekas and Tsitsiklis.

 

Neuro-dynamic programming
LIDS develops this widely used methodology for large-scale dynamic optimization.

 

Advances and applications
LIDS contributes to significant advances in coding and information theory, large-scale statistical inference, and estimation. Applications expand to include remote sensing data assimilation, automotive control, and autonomously controlled air vehicles.
 

2000s

Directors
Vincent Chan (1999-2007), Director/Co-Director Thomas Magnanti/Alan Willsky (2007-2009), Alan Willsky (2009-2014)

 

Leadership in theory and education
New courses on inference and learning, network coding, and networks. Continuation of the development of leading texts, including Introduction to Probability by Bertsekas and Tsitsiklis.

 

Communication and machine learning
LIDS contributes to developments in network coding, information theory, wideband communication systems, network message-passing algorithms, and machine learning.

 

Application development
The lab develops applications for use in peer-to-peer networks, sensor network information fusion, multiple object tracking algorithms, and satellite and optical networks.

 

DARPA Urban Challenge (2006-2007)
LIDS faculty and students play a major role in MIT’s entry.

 

Expanding research
LIDS focus expands to include design and analysis of embedded control systems, natural language processing, social network analysis, networked dynamical systems, and network games.