Jerome Wiesner

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Jerome Wiesner
President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In office
Preceded by Howard Wesley Johnson
Succeeded by Paul Edward Gray
Personal details
Born (1915-05-30)May 30, 1915
Detroit, Michigan
Died October 21, 1994(1994-10-21) (aged 79)
Watertown, Massachusetts
Alma mater University of Michigan
Awards IEEE Founders Medal (1977)
Vannevar Bush Award (1992)

Jerome Bert Wiesner (May 30, 1915 – October 21, 1994) was an educator, a Science Advisor to the President for Eisenhower and (more formally) Kennedy and Johnson, the President of MIT, an advocate for arms control, and a critic of anti-ballistic-missile defense systems.[not verified in body] He was also an outspoken critic of manned exploration of outer space, which he believed should be done using only unmanned satellites. He was noted for his consistent denunciation of Project Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.[not verified in body]


Early life[edit]

Wiesner was born in a Jewish family in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Dearborn. He attended Fordson High School. He completed both his undergraduate and graduate training at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) receiving a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1950. An interest in radio broadcasting and acoustics ultimately resulted in his appointment to the Acoustical and Record Laboratory of the Library of Congress in 1940; in this capacity he toured the American South with Alan Lomax recording the folk music of this region.


He was associated with MIT for most of his career, joining the MIT Radiation Laboratory in 1942 and working on radar development. He worked briefly at Los Alamos, returned to become a professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, and worked at and ultimately became director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT (RLE). He became Dean of the School of Science in 1964, Provost in 1966, and President from 1971 to 1980.[1] He was also elected a life member of the MIT Corporation.

Wiesner served on President John F. Kennedy's Science Advisory Committee. His MIT news obituary described him as “A leading voice for decades in international efforts to control and limit nuclear arms, he was a key figure in the Kennedy administration in the establishment of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, in achieving a partial nuclear test ban treaty, and in the successful effort to restrict the deployment of antiballistic missile systems.”[1] Kennedy directed the Science Advisory Committee to investigate the controversy surrounding the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Wiesner conducted hearings, and on May 15, 1963 published a report titled "The Use of Pesticides". This document led to the demise of the widespread use of DDT, as well as legislation to protect the environment.[citation needed]

During the Watergate scandal, it was disclosed in June 1973 that Charles W. Colson, counsel to President Nixon, had prepared on September 9, 1971, a short list of 20 people deemed "hostile to the administration."[2] What became popularly known as "Nixon's enemies list" was discovered to have been expanded to include Wiesner, among twenty other academics. According to an issue of Science journal reprinted in the Boston Globe and Washington Post, a White House memo discussed a Nixon order to "cut back on MIT's subsidy in view of Wiesner's anti-defense bias."[3]

Wiesner was portrayed by Al Franken in the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.

He was awarded the Delmer S. Fahrney Award in 1980. In 1993 Wiesner was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[2]

Wiesner's son, Stephen Wiesner, is a research physicist.



Incomplete - to be updated



  1. ^ President emeritus Jerome Wiesner is dead at 79 October 26, 1994
  2. ^ "Public Welfare Award". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
External links in the following were last verified 30 August 2005.
  1. ^ Obituary, MIT News Office
  2. ^ "Lists of White House 'Enemies' and Memorandums Relating to Those Named", The New York Times, June 28, 1973, p. 38.
  3. ^ "Enemies list", The Tech (MIT's student newspaper), September 7, 1973, p. 4.
  4. A Random Walk through the Twentieth Century, online hyper-biography of Wiesner from 1995