The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.

Acknowledging the Past, Present, and Future

At the close of this Spring term, an undergraduate student, Zhelinrentice Scott ’01, started a campaign to change the MIT Seal’s appearance. There was an article in the Tuesday, May 15, 2001 edition of The Tech titled “Petition Asks for Female on MIT Seal.” This article went into the reasons and the motivations of the campaign.

A summary of the reasons for changing the seal is to acknowledge the accomplishments, past and present, of the women of MIT by changing either the scientist or the engineer to a woman. During the day that the article ran in the school newspaper many people did not know the history of the seal and asked several times. The history of the seal is a topic that has not been talked about in depth during this conversation concerning the MIT Seal.

The motto of the MIT Seal is “mens et manus.” This Latin saying means “mind and hand” and it emphasizes the importance of the “the most earnest co-operation of intelligent cultures with Industrial pursuits.” The personification of this mantra lies in the laborer and scholar found on the left and right side of the MIT Seal respectively.

The MIT Seal was made offical on December 26, 1864, after the committee on the Seal (est. 1863) met to decide on its design. There are no records of the deliberation process, however it is clear from the Institute Archives that the scholar and laborer do not represent a specific person. Finally, the MIT Seal was last updated when Howard Johnson was president of MIT. The seal was modernized at that time.

The campaign to change the MIT seal from two men to one male and one female desires to follow history. When MIT was founded, Women did not have the right to vote. Women were second class citizens who had no voice or representation in the sciences. Now times have changed, and the campaign seeks to follow President Johnson’s example to “modernize” the seal to include a completely inclusive gender represenation of the intersection of science and its applications.


The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.