BOSTON—Harvard Business School’s Baker Library recently opened a new exhibit, Georges F. Doriot: Educating Leaders, Building Companies. It will run through August 3, 2015, in the north lobby of Baker Library | Bloomberg Center on the Harvard Business School campus in Boston (Please see www.library.hbs.edu/hc/exhibits/visiting for hours.)
The exhibit (http://www.library.hbs.edu/hc/doriot ) examines the career of Harvard Business School professor Georges F. Doriot (1899 – 1987), a legendary educator, a founder of the modern venture capital industry, and a U.S. Army general during World War II. It features selections from the Georges F. Doriot Collection—on permanent loan to Baker Library from the French Library and Cultural Center in Boston—that reveal the ideas and ideals of a man who played an important role in the emergence of the postwar entrepreneurial economy.
During his 40-year tenure at Harvard Business School, the charismatic Professor Doriot taught business and leadership in his celebrated second-year Manufacturing elective to some 7,000 MBA candidates. He was renowned for his dedication to hard work and his commitment to thinking about the future, and he expected nothing less from his students. They were required to undertake extensive field work and act as consultants, making practical contributions to real management problems. At the same time, they were expected to spend an entire year researching and writing reports on subjects of interest and importance to American business. Many of these “topic reports” were eventually published, placing their student authors on the leading edge of new trends and technologies. In 1951, for example, one team coined the word “automation.”
Beyond the classroom, Doriot was a founder of the first public venture capital firm in the United States, American Research and Development Corporation (AR&D). In 1946, he became the first president of the firm, which, as he wrote, provided capital to “creative men with the vision of things to be done.” Under his guidance, AR&D made its most successful investment in 1960, when it gave $70,000 to a young researcher from MIT named Ken Olsen, who used the money to start Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Just twelve years later, the company had become one of the world’s largest computer manufacturers, with sales in the millions of dollars. Microsoft founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates wrote their first PC software using a DEC computer.
“Professor Doriot had an enormous influence on generations of Harvard Business School students who, decades after they graduated, remembered the lessons he taught and the advice he gave,” said Laura Linard, Director of Baker Library’s Special Collections. “Beyond that, through his work as a pioneering venture capitalist, he had a lasting impact on the nature of U.S. business and the future of the American economy. Doriot was truly an extraordinary academic and practitioner, and this exhibit provides an expansive and fascinating overview of his life and accomplishments.”
A native of France, Doriot became a naturalized American citizen when the United States entered World War II in 1941, and he was called to active duty as a U.S. Army officer. Assigned to the Pentagon, he served first as Director of Military Planning for the Quartermaster General and then as Deputy Director of Research and Development for the War Department (now the Defense Department). He became a brigadier general in 1945. Under Doriot’s leadership, the Army developed a number of products that were significant in the war effort (and afterwards), including body armor called “Doron” and an early version of L.L. Bean’s leather-and-rubber boots, which protected the feet of soldiers exposed for long periods of time to cold and wet winter conditions.
After the war, in the 1950s, Doriot was instrumental in creating a European graduate school of business administration in France. Popularly known as INSEAD, its French acronym, the school modeled its curriculum and case-method teaching techniques after those of Harvard Business School.
With his wife, Edna, Doriot also devoted considerable time and effort over many years to fostering cultural understanding between France and the United States through their extensive work with the French Library in Boston (now the French Library and Cultural Center). Thanks to their tireless devotion to that cause, the organization is regarded as one of the leading centers of French culture in this country.
Please contact the Baker Library Historical Collections (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request a copy of the exhibition catalog.
For more information about the Historical Collections, visit www.library.hbs.edu.