Jerome Wiesner

Jerome Wiesner
President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Term 1971 – 1980
Predecessor Howard Wesley Johnson
Successor Paul Edward Gray
Born May 30, 1915(1915-05-30)
Detroit, Michigan
Died October 21, 1994(1994-10-21) (aged 79)
Watertown, Massachusetts
Alma mater University of Michigan

Jerome Bert Wiesner (May 30, 1915 – October 21, 1994) was an educator, a Science Advisor to U.S. Presidents Eisenhower and (more formally) Kennedy and Johnson, an advocate for arms control, and a critic of anti-ballistic-missile defense systems. He was also an outspoken advocate of the exploration of outer space using only unmanned satellites, most notably in his consistent denunciation of Project Mercury and its follow-ups.



Early life

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.

He held numerous positions as a government policy advisor on science and technology. In particular, he assisted the Kennedy administration to handle the fallout from publication of Silent Spring. Wiesner assembled a team, conducted hearings that included Ms. Rachel Carson, and on May 15, 1963 tabled "The Use of Pesticides". This document heralded the demise of the widespread use of DDT, as well as legislation to protect the environment.

During the Watergate scandal, on June 28, 1973 it transpired that Charles W. Colson, counsel to President Nixon, had prepared an "enemies list" of people deemed "hostile to the administration," while a memo from John Dean discussed "how we can use the available Federal machinery to screw our political enemies." This "enemies list" included Wiesner among twenty-one academics.[2] Other memos indicated that Nixon had ordered that MIT's subsidy be cut "in view of Wiesner's anti-defense bias." Three MIT associates — Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Edwin Land — were also on the list, giving MIT more names on the list than any other single organization.[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.[1]

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



Incomplete - to be updated



  1. ^ "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

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