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Eight of 18 presidential advisors on science have MIT ties

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- MIT, the host for today's 25th anniversary celebration of the creation of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has many links to presidential science advisors.

Eight of the 18 formal or informal science advisors to the President of the United States since 1940 have had ties to MIT. Vannevar Bush, MIT Class of 1916 and MIT Vice President, was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the Chairman of the National Defense Research Committee in 1940. James R. Killian Jr. was appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower as the first special assistant to the president for science and technology in 1957, when Killian was president of MIT.

Other informal or formal presidential science advisors with MIT connections include Lee DuBridge (Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon) and Director of MIT's wartime Radiation Laboratory; Isidor Rabi, (Eisenhower), Associate Director of MIT's Radiation Laboratory; Jerome Wiesner (Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson), Director of the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics and later dean of science, provost and president of MIT; Edward E. David (Nixon), MIT S.M. and Sc.D, 1950, and life trustee of MIT; H. Guyford Stever (Nixon and Ford), head of MIT's Mechanical Engineering Department from 1961 to 1965, and Frank Press (Carter), head of MIT's Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Science Department from 1965 to 1977.

Bush served Roosevelt for five years and continued on into the term of Harry S. Truman, although historians of the field say Truman ignored him.

In between Bush and Killian were a number of scientists who advised the president in a less formal way, according to government historians and Dr. William Wells, former chief of staff to Presidential Science Advisors: D. Allan Bromley (G.H.W. Bush), John H. Gibbons (Clinton) and Neal Lane (Clinton). Wells, now retired, wrote his thesis on the office of science advisor.

According to Dr. Wells and historians at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, these "informal" science advisors included:

  • Dr. William T. Golden, now 91, who was special counsel to President Truman to review government science activities from 1950 to 1951 and recommended the creation of a science advisor and the National Science Foundation;
  • Dr. Oliver E. Buckley, the first chairman of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) under Truman;
  • Lee DuBridge, who served Truman and Eisenhower as the second chair of PSAC, and who had served as Director of the war-time MIT Radiation Laboratory which developed the key technology of radar instruments ; and
  • Isidor I. Rabi, the third chair of PSAC, and the associate director of the MIT Radiation Laboratory.

Killian, MIT Class of 1926 and MIT president from 1949 to 1959, served as Eisenhower's science advisor from 1957 to 1959.

The list of science advisors following Killian are:

  • George B. Kistiakowsky (Eisenhower), 1959 - 1961
  • Jerome B. Wiesner (Kennedy and Johnson), 1961-64
  • Donald Hornig (Johnson), 1964-69
  • Lee A. DuBridge (Nixon), 1969-70
  • Edward E. David Jr. (Nixon), 1970-73
  • H. Guyford Stever served Nixon, 1973-74, as science advisor although Nixon had abolished the post of special assistant for science and technology
  • Stever stayed on with President Ford, who restored the assistant and created the post of Director of the Office of Science Technology and Policy in 1976
  • Frank Press (Carter), 1977-81, succeeded Stever, followed by
  • George A. Keyworth II (Reagan), 1981-86
  • John P. McTague (Reagan), 1986
  • William R. Graham (Reagan), 1986-89
  • D. Allan Bromley (G.H.W. Bush), 1989-93
  • John H. Gibbons (Clinton), 1993-98
  • Neal Lane (Clinton), 1998-2001

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