Jerome B. Wiesner Personal Papers

Note: This collection does not have a published finding aid.

Digital Identifier
Date(s) of Materials
Papers, 1961-1965 (#308). Consist of official chronological and subject files. The vast majority of materials cover the years 1961-1963. Engineer, educator, government official. Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (1961-1964); Director, Office of Science and Technology (1961-64). Open.
The Jerome B. Wiesner Personal Papers collection consists of material generated by Wiesner and his staff while working as Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology, and as the Chairman of the President’s Science Advisory Committee. As a special assistant, Wiesner provided advice on the effective use of science and technology in the interest of national security and for the general welfare. The Office of Science and Technology was established in May 1962 and as its first director, Wiesner was responsible for the proper coordination of federal science and technology functions.

This collection is comprised of three series: Top Secret Files, Secret Files, and Unclassified Files. Materials include memoranda, reports, telegrams, letters, and speeches. Wiesner communicated often with President Kennedy and other administration staff members, with congressmen and senators, and with members of the scientific community. Topics covered in this collection include education; scientific and technical manpower; space – including memoranda on the manned lunar landing and other earth-orbit space activities; and telecommunications, among others. There is a large amount of material related to nuclear testing and the test ban treaty, including letters from the public who wrote to Dr. Wiesner to express their views.
Biographical Note
Jerome B. Wiesner was born in Detroit, Michigan, on May 30, 1915. He was educated in the Dearborn public schools and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he received bachelor of science degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics in 1937, the master of science degree in electrical engineering in 1938, and the doctor of philosophy degree in electrical engineering in 1950.

As both an undergraduate and graduate student at Michigan, Dr. Wiesner was associate director of the university's radio broadcasting service. In addition, he participated in studies of acoustics and assisted in developing electronic techniques at the National Music Camp at Interlochen, MI.

In 1940, he was appointed chief engineer for the Acoustical and Record Laboratory of the Library of Congress. There he assisted in developing recording facilities and equipment and traveled through the South and Southwest with the noted folklorist Alan Lomax, recording the folk music of the regions for the Library of Congress Archives. In 1942, shortly after the United States became involved in World War II, Dr. Wiesner joined the research staff at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) newly formed Radiation Laboratory, where he worked on the development of microwave radar. He became an associate member of the laboratory's steering committee and was later the leader of Project Cadillac, which developed an airborne radar system that was the forerunner of the present AWAC system.

In 1945, as the war came to an end, Dr. Wiesner briefly joined the staff at the University of California's Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico, then returned to MIT in 1946 as assistant professor of electrical engineering. He was advanced to the rank of associate professor in 1947 and was made a full professor of electrical engineering in 1950.
From 1946 to 1961 he worked at MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics. He held various positions at the laboratory, including assistant director, associate director and finally director. From 1959 to 1960 he was also acting head of the Department of Electrical Engineering.

Dr. Wiesner was a frequent consultant and adviser to government agencies, particularly the Department of Defense and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, on matters relating to science and technology. He became a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1957 during the Eisenhower administration. He also served as the technical director of the Gaither Panel, a study of civilian defense undertaken by the White House. In 1958 he served as staff director of the United States delegation to the Geneva Conference for the Prevention of Surprise Attack. Also in 1958, Dr. Wiesner became associated with the Pugwash Group, scientists whose activities have been directed toward improving communications and relations between intellectual leaders in Communist bloc nations and those of the Western world.

Dr. Wiesner took a three-year leave of absence from MIT starting in February 1961 to serve as special assistant to President John F. Kennedy for Science and Technology and, simultaneously, as chairman of the President's Science Advisory Committee. He also held those posts for a short time under President Lyndon B. Johnson following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. He returned to MIT as dean of the School of Science in 1964. In July 1971, Dr. Wiesner became president of MIT.

From 1974 to 1981, Dr. Wiesner served on the Technology Advisory Council of Congress' Office of Technology Assessment, where he was elected chairman in January 1976. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Public Broadcasting Service and served as a consultant-at-large to the President's Science Advisory Committee. Dr. Wiesner was on the board of trustees of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Board of Governors of The Institute of Science, the advisory committee of the Wellman Laboratory for research in photobiology, the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, and the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government. In addition he served on the boards of the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity, Consultants for Management Decisions, Inc., The Faxon Company, Magnascreen, and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Dr. Wiesner married Laya Wainger of Johnston, Pennsylvania in 1940. They had four children. Wiesner passed away October 21, 1994 of heart failure.
Extent / Physical Description
9.82 cubic feet
Archival Creator(s)
Wiesner, Jerome B. (Jerome Bert), 1915-1994

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April 15, 2024 1:55:13 PM EDT