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JEROME BERT WIESNER 1915-1994 BY PAUL E. GRAY OPEROSE B. WIESNER engineer, educator, adviser to presidents and the young, passionate advocate for peace, and public citi- zen died on October ill, 1994, at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, at the age of seventy-nine. Throughout his life, he applieci his intellect and wisdom and energy to improve the many institutions with which he was involved, to ameliorate the problems clouding the future of humankind, and to make the worIcl a better, safer, more humane home to all its citizens. Jerry was born in Detroit, Michigan, on May 30, 1915- the son of a shopkeeper and grew up in nearby Dearborn, where he attended the public schools. He attenclec3 the University of Mich- igan at Ann Arbor, where he earned bachelor of science degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics in 1937, the master of science degree in electrical engineering in 193S, and the doctor of philosophy degree in electrical engineering in 1950. fin or out of public positions, he never stopped caring or working for the country's good. He never thought it was not his problem ~He] performed the office of public citizen better than any contemporary I know. . . Anthony Lewis The New York Times October 28, 1994 291
292 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES He began his professional career in 1937 as associate direc- tor of the University of Michigan broadcasting service, and in 1940 mover! to the Acoustical Record Library of the Library of Congress, where he served as chief engineer. In that capacity he traveled throughout the South with folklorist Alan Lomax recording the music of the black folk en cl blues tradition. In 1942 he joined the Radiation Laboratory at the Massa- chusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), beginning an association that with brief interruptions for government ser- vice, lasted until his death fifty-two years later. At the Radiation Laboratory, he player! a major role in developing microwave raclar a too] that Winston Churchill characterized as decisive in the Alliecl victory in World War lI. In 1945 he moved for a year to Los Alamos to work on in- strumentation for nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific. In 1946 he rejoined MTT as assistant professor of electrical engineering, working in the Research Laboratory of Electron- ics (RLE), a multidisciplinary center for basic research in electronics, physics, en cl communications, which grew out of the wartime Racliation Laboratory. He made significant contri- butions to the continued development of airborn racier systems and to the development of tropospheric-scatter microwave communications systems, which proviclec! highly reliable long . distance communications. Promoter! to full professor in 1950, he became director of RLE in 1952 and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1959. In 1961 JerryT took leave from MIT to serve as special assis- tant for science and technology to President John F. Kennedy and as chairman of the Presiclent's Science Advisory Commit tee (PSAC). He also held these posts for a short time under President Lynclon B. Johnson, following President Kennecly's assassination in 1963. He had known government consulting en c! advisory service in prior years as a member of P SAC since 1957 en cl as a participant in several panels. He participates! in the Pugwash Group, which enabler! him to develop strong per- sonal relationships with Soviet scientists and leaders.
TEROME BERT WIESNER 293 He was remarkably gifted in his ability to elucidate complex issues and to explain the effects of policies ant! their technical en cl political consequences, as in his 1961 book Where Science and Politics Meet. He wrote extensively on the issues of arms control en c! nuclear disarmament. He unclerstooct the dewily collateral hazards associated with nuclear weapons production and testing, and an unrestrained nuclear arms race. With persistent persuasive argument he convinced others, in the East en cl West, that the florid must move off this dangerous course. His influence was central in bringing about the ban on atmospheric weapons testing and in generating interest, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, in parallel systematic reductions in nuclear weapons. Jerry Wiesner's passionate involvement with these issues was evident throughout his life. His 1969 publication (with Abram Chayes) of ABM: An Evaluation of the Decision to Deploy an Anti- ballistic Missile System earner! him a place on President Nixon's "enemies lists." In 1993 he published, with his MIT colleagues Kosta Tsipis en c! Philip Morrison, Beyond the Looking Glass: The United States Military in 2000 and Later, calling for deep cuts in American military procurement and expenditures. Anti in the days before his death he was corresponding with Secretary of Defense William Perry about Pentagon needs and budgets. When ferry returned to MIT after his service in the White House, he became clean of science, having been appointed institute professor in 1962, MIT's highest faculty rank. In 1966 he became provost, and was elected thirteenth president of MIT in 1971, serving in that position until 1980. As clean, pro- vost, and president, he expanded MTT's teaching and research programs in health sciences, humanities, and the arts. He sought new ways in which MIT's expertise in science and engi- neering couIc3 be brought to bear on social issues such as health care, urban clecay, mass transportation, and housing. He was instrumental in establishing the MIT program in Sci- ence, Technology, and Society to focus on ways in which science and technological and social factors interact to shape modern life. Jerry was centrally involved in the creation of the Program in Media Arts en cl Sciences and the Meclia Laborato- ry, which are housed at MIT in the Jerome and Laya Wiesner
294 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES Builcling. He was cleeply committed to the goals of this na- tion's civil rights movement, and the perioc! of his leaclership of MET procluced the greatest progress in bringing women and minorities to the student body and the faculty. After his retirement as president, Jerry clevoted himself to teaching and research in technical en cl policy areas related to science, technology, society, en c! world peace. Jerome Wiesner was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1966 and to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1960. He was a fellow of the American Acad- emy of Arts and Sciences (1953) and of the Institute of Electrical en cl Electronics Engineers (19521. In 1985 he was awarilecl the NAE's Arthur M. Bueche Award for long-term contributions to public unclerstancling of the risks of the nu- clear age, and in 1992 he received the National Science Founciation's Vannevar Bush Award for outstanding contribu- tions in science en c! technology that are significant to the national welfare. In 1993 he received the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal, the highest honor of the NAS, for clistinguishecl contributions in the application of science to the public welfare. Jerry received honors throughout his life from professional, acacl emic, and philanthropic organizations in the United States, from clistinguishecl international associations, and from foreign governments. He was the recipient of honorary cle- grees from premier universities Harvard, Tufts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, en cl Notre Dame among many others. This extraordinary stream of honors, although warmly appre- ciated by the recipient, never altered his fundamental modesty; the (listinguishecI elder statesman of the 199Os was, in fact, not very different from the junior engineer who ar- rived at MIT fifty years earlier: still a little shy, but friendly, humorous, and always accessible. Jerry Wiesner was a reliable friend, and all at MIT and else- where (including this writer) who relied on that friendship and on his course! and guidance, are unlikely to find its re- placement.
TEROME BERT WIESNER 295 For Jerry's inauguration as president of MIT on October 7, 1971, Archibald MacLeish wrote and deliverecl a poem that spoke the truth of this remarkable man. It ended with these lines, which are the best words to conclude this remembrance: Advisor to Presidents the papers call him. Acivisor, ~ say to the young. It's the young who need competent friends, boIcl companions, honest men who won't run out, won't write off mankind, sell up the country, quit the venture, jibe the ship. I love this man. I rinse my mouth with his praise in a frightful time. The taste in the cup is of mint, ~ . Ot spring water.