More specifically, at the time of this exam the school was only ~8 years old and engineering wasn't considered the prestigious career it is today.
The round up of federal funding in the 1940's and 50's is really interesting to read about as it completely transformed the school and in a broader sense transformed higher education in the US as a whole.
EDIT: well, maybe not blatantly ignoring our current input, but the concessions that they are making are too little too late in my opinion
I've often heard, "Oh, the (parties|hacks|accomplishments|steer roast) was better years ago, and now all the incoming students don't do it the same anymore". There's a weird looking back on things, and today is never as good as yesterday to some students. I hope that this is due to a missampling on my part in talking to people, because that's a really depressing view of the institution
(Note that they are not scanned in from an original document like the questions.)
Bismarck was already a world-historical personage by 1869, and anybody applying to MIT would have likely been able to identify him.
I thought we were all supposed to have been dumbed down compared to our illustrious forefathers?
Obviously, it was the men and women of the 1950s, who built computers and airplanes from nothing with little more than their wit, a grease pencil, and some twine, who were of the utmost in mental capacity and grit.
Since we're only 60 years from 1950, whereas 1869 is 81, we must be smarter than them. In fact, we're about as smart as people were in 1890. Ten years ago, we were as smart as people in 1900, but sadly such intelligence is ten years gone.
A corollary: in another 21 years, people will look back at this exam and just barely understand it. A few years after that, all hope is lost.
I loved how you wrapped it up! humor at its best.
Another issue to consider, though, is specialization. 100 years ago, even 50 years ago, people could master all the breadth of their subjects (in math/sciences). Who is the current Gauss or Einstein? Hard to tell, possibly no one can now have that effect alone.
Even 20-30 years ago, when Woz singlehandedly invented the personal computer, it was very different. (he says he had it all in his head at once, really amazing). You can read a beautiful interview here: http://www.foundersatwork.com/steve-wozniak.html
Conrad Wolfram recently gave a wonder TED talk on the subject.
> We've done more with math in the last 20 years than they did in their entire 600 year history.
What Greeks did with advancing the math profoundly affected technology and sciences. What was done in the last 20 years does not even begin to compare in impact.
With computers, people won't perform the basic calculations in their head. But their strategy-forming about what, of the gigantic possibility space, they could or should ask the computer next will still require the same old concentration and working memory... and more.
This is quite likely true, especially for scientists and mathematicians. An interesting question for me though is whether the average citizenry is becoming better or worse at mathematics over generations.
The average person will do just fine in their lives without needing to factorize a quadratic equation. They will do swimmingly without knowing the relation between ln and e. The average person will, after high school, never again have to utter the word "pi" in a non desert-related setting. Similarly, "'x' equals" will become nought but a forgotten dream.
Modern life makes no mathematical demands of 98% of humanity. The only mathematical skill beyond basic arithmetic that most people need to know is compound interest, and most people don't know that.
Knowledge is driven by need, and there's simply no need for most people to be anything but marginally proficient in math.
From the wiki page, it seems like it was actually one of the first technical unis around: "a new form of higher education to address the challenges posed by rapid advances in science and technology in the mid-19th century that classic institutions were ill-prepared to deal with." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Massachusetts_In...)
1. Construct a triangle ABC. Construct a line parellel to AB through C. Alternate angles and angle sum of triangle shows it is 180 degrees
2. Use congruent triangles
3. A number of ways doing this. I would cut it into two triangles
4. 360/6 = 60 degrees. Thus each sector is a equilateral triangle.
5. 100 pi
6. Basic algebra, let x be the length of the perpendicular. x = 12, solve for sides using Pythagoras. 20 and 15
7. x : x^2
Would expect to be year 7 or year 8 level.
If I remember correctly, my school district didn't offer true algebra until 8th grade, for honors students only, in a class that started an hour before any regular class. Hardly elementary.
At least, my year was given two years of algebra.
It is only a bit harder than SAT I Math, in my opinion. I've always wondered why SAT I Math is so easy--a good middle school graduate in Asia would have aced it. If anyone here can comment/point to references on the matter, I will appreciate it.
I am from central Europe and have gone to schools here as well.