Jerome Wiesner bigraphy, stories - American academic engineer

Jerome Wiesner : biography

May 30, 1915 - October 21, 1994

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, Gemini and Apollo.


  • B.S., 1937, University of Michigan
  • M.S., 1938, University of Michigan
  • Ph.D, 1950, University of Michigan


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. He was also elected a life member of the MIT Corporation.

Wiesner served on President John F. Kennedy's Science Advisory Committee. Kennedy directed the 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.

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." 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."

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.

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

Living octopus

Living octopus

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