Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

When our CSAIL laboratory moved into the Stata Center, I discovered my assigned office had a wall tilted back at 7½°. That tilt presented a problem; the bookcase I brought along from our old digs in Tech Square looked really ugly and small.

My engineering gene started to manifest itself. Engineers build stuff to solve problems, so I built a slanted bookcase, 14′ 5¾” along the hypotenuse.

I made it from ¾” cherry veneer plywood, with solid cherry facings, and finished it with several applications of Watco Danish oil. The shelves are set on adjustable ¼” steel pins. I secured it with two bolts in the floor, because I think the only possible failure mode would be slipping out from the wall at the bottom.

Everyone wonders how I get the books from the top. The answer is that I use the local stepladder, but alas, the top two shelves are beyond its reach. So, there it is: another problem. One of these days I’ll solve it by building a custom library ladder.

Even when I write or give a talk, I think of myself as solving a problem by building something.  First, I decide what the problem is, then I draw up a a specification for what I want to write or say, next I develop a plan and bring the raw materials together, and finally I assemble, all the while attending to esthetics as well as function.  Writing and speaking became a lot easier when I started thinking that way.

Of course, building stuff is the bedrock of MIT, our raison d’être. MIT faculty, staff, students, and graduates build everything from biological cells to cities.