James Rhyne Killian

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For the NFL football player, see James Kilian.
James Rhyne Killian
President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In office
Preceded by Karl Compton
Succeeded by Julius Stratton
Personal details
Born (1904-07-24)July 24, 1904
Blacksburg, South Carolina
Died January 29, 1988(1988-01-29) (aged 83)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Awards Vannevar Bush Award (1980)

Dr. James Rhyne Killian, Jr. (July 24, 1904 – January 29, 1988) was the 10th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from 1948 until 1959.

Early life[edit]

Killian received an S.B. in management from MIT in 1926. While there, he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.


In 1932 while serving as the editor of MIT's alumni magazine, Killian was instrumental in the founding of Technology Press, the publishing imprint that would later become the institute's independent publishing house, MIT Press.

Two locations on MIT's campus bear Killian's name: Killian Court, a tree-lined courtyard with views of MIT's Great Dome, and Killian Hall, a concert hall (actually named after Killian's wife, Elizabeth Parks Killian, a Wellesley College alumna). In 1956, James R. Killian Jr was named as the 1st Chair to the new President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board by the Eisenhower Administration; a position which he held until April 1963.

He was Special Assistant for Science and Technology to President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1957 to 1959, making him the first true Presidential Science Advisor. Killian headed the Killian Committee and oversaw the creation of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) shortly after the launches of the Soviet artificial satellites, Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2, in October and November 1957. PSAC was instrumental in initiating national curriculum reforms in science and technology and in establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In 1956 Killian was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[1] He (co-)authored a book, "The Education of a College President" (1985), which serves as an autobiography as well.


  1. ^ "Public Welfare Award". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

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