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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the Chair of the Corporation, records of James R. Killian

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0125

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection documents James R. Killian's activities, interests, responsibilities, and major issues and changes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during Killian's years as the Chariman of the Corporation (1959-1971). The collection contains information about MIT's growth after World War II including the evolution of special programs and research projects; development of MIT's departments, laboratories, and centers; construction and building projects; and describes campus unrest during the Vietnam War era, fund raising activities connected to the Second Century Fund campaign beginning in 1961, and MIT's relationship to the Cambridge/Boston community.


  • Creation: 1934 - 1987


Access note

This collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.


James Rhyne Killian, 1904-1988, S.B. in management, 1926, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, remained at MIT as assistant managing editor, then managing editor, of Technology Review, the magazine of the Alumni Association; he was editor from 1930 to 1939, and helped found the Technology Press, now the MIT Press. In 1939 he became executive assistant to MIT President Karl Taylor Compton. During World War II, when Compton was involved with the National Defense Research Committee, Killian acted as Compton’s surrogate in directing the operation of MIT, which was also heavily involved in wartime research and development. He was appointed executive vice president in 1943, and vice president and member of the MIT Corporation in 1945. He became the tenth president of MIT in 1948 and served until 1959; he was then chair of the MIT Corporation, 1959-1971.

As special assistant for science and technology to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957-1959, Killian formed the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) which was instrumental in initiating national curriculum reforms in science and technology and in establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He participated in many other government advisory and study groups including President Harry S. Truman’s Communications Policy Board, 1950-1951; the President’s Advisory Committee on Management, 1950-1952; the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy, 1953-1955; the Army Scientific Advisory Panel (chair), 1951-1956; and the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, 1961-1963. He was chair of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, 1965-1967, which led to the “Public Television Act of 1967″; he then served as director of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1968-1974. He was a member of the General Advisory Committee of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1969-1974. Among his books are Sputnik, Scientists and Eisenhower (1977); Flash! Seeing the Unseen by Ultra-High Speed Photography, with Harold E. Edgerton (1939, 1954); and The Education of a College President (1985).

Prepared by the Institute Archives, MIT Libraries November 1995

Historical note

The governing body of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a board of trustees known as the Corporation, over which the chair presides. Corporation members include approximately seventy five distinguished leaders in science, engineering, industry, education, and public service. The MIT Corporation consists of life members, term members, five persons nominated by recently graduated classes, and (ex officio) the chair, president, treasurer, and secretary of the Corporation. Three representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the president of the MIT Alumni Association also serve as ex officio members of the Corporation. Between quarterly meetings, the Corporation functions though its officers and its Executive Committee. Although the Corporation of MIT has functioned since the Institute was incorporated in 1861, the first chair of the Corporation was not appointed until 1930. Until that time the president of MIT presided over the Corporation meetings. The chairs of the MIT Corporation were: Samuel Wesley Stratton, 1930-1931; Karl Taylor Compton, 1948-1954; Vannevar Bush, 1957-1959; James R. Killian, Jr., 1959-1971; Howard Johnson, 1971-1983; David Saxon, 1983-1990; Paul Gray, 1990-1997; Alexander V. d'Arbeloff, 1997-2003; Dana Mead, 2003-2010; and John S. Reed, 2010-present (as of 2014) .


59 Cubic Feet (59 record cartons)

Language of Materials



During Mr. Killian's tenure as chairman of the MIT Corporation his chief administrative assistant established the filing system for the office records, and the organization of this collection is based on its original order.


Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Related Materials in the Institute Archives

James R. Killian Papers, 1923-1988 (MC 423).

Processing Information note

Corporation and Executive Committee meeting minutes reviewed in 2012 and shredded. Official set in IASC and these had no personal notes. Boxes 28, 29, 30 were withdrawn and numbers not used as of 7/2012. Therefore the total number of boxes in collection is 59 record cartons, but the last box number is 62.

AC 125 originally contained 82 cubic feet of material: two cubic feet of MIT publications and near print materials were placed in the Institute Archives' Tech Collection, and two cubic feet of non MIT publications were sent to the gifts and exchanges department of the MIT Libraries. The remaining four cubic feet were discarded: duplicates, newsclippings, annual reports, Technology Review journals and reprints, MIT publications and near print material already in the Tech Collection, and publications and writings not authored by JRK sent to him for his information by non MIT colleagues or associates

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Office of the Chairman of the Corporation, 1934-1987
Records of James R. Killian
Preliminary Inventory
Amy G. Sugerman
Copyright 1985
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US