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Jerome B. Wiesner papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0420

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Records about Wiesner's activities at MIT include correspondence, memoranda, and reports from the Department of Electrical Engineering, correspondence about his involvement with the Council for the Arts, and information about his fund raising efforts. A tribute from the MIT faculty upon his retirement from the MIT presidency in 1980 is included. Wiesner's consulting to government, industry, private foundations, and other groups such as the President's Science Advisory Committee, 1960-1961, 1964-1972, the Public Broadcasting System, the Cambridge Radio Observatory Committee, the Sloan Commission on Cable Communications, the New England Solar Energy Center, and the Massachusetts Governor's Advisory Committee on Science and Technology is documented in correspondence and subject files. The collection documents his involvement with Pugwash and other political and professional societies, including the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. Copies of speeches, radio and television interviews, copies of his publications, and correspondence reflect Wiesner's concern about arms control, the space program, energy, and underdeveloped countries. There are several audiocassettes of speeches and lectures he gave. Some personal correspondence and correspondence logs are included.

Wiesner's official MIT records form a separate collection in the Institute Archives: AC 8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Office of the President.

Wiesner's records as science advisor to President John F. Kennedy are located at the John F. Kennedy Library, Columbia Point, Boston, Mass.


  • 1949 - 1994


Access note

This collection is open.

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.


A detailed biography can also be found in the MIT News Office obituary:

Jerome B. Wiesner, 1915-1994, BS 1937, MS 1938, and PhD 1950 in electrical engineering, University of Michigan, was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1971 to 1980 and professor of electrical engineering from 1946-1971. In 1962 he was appointed Institute Professor, a title reserved for a small number of MIT's facutly.

In 1940 he was appointed chief engineer for the Acoustical and Records Laboratory of the Library of Congress where he assisted in developing facilities and equipment and traveled through the South and Southwest with folklorist Alan Lomax, recording regional folk music. He came to MIT in 1942 to work in the Radiation Laboratory, where he helped refine radar and develop ionospheric high frequency radio transmission.

In 1945 Wiesner briefly joined the staff at the University of California's Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico but left the following year to return to MIT, where he became assistant professor of electrical engineering in 1946, associate professor in 1947, and full professor in 1950. From 1946 to 1961 he was associated with the Research Laboratory for Electronics, directing the lab from 1952 to 1961.

From 1959 to 1960 he was acting head of the Department of Electrical Engineering. In 1964 he became dean of MIT's School of Science, and in 1966, provost. When he retired from the MIT presidency, he became a life member of the MIT Corporation. The focus of Wiesner's research was in the fields of microwave theory, human and machine communications, scatter transmission techniques and engineering, signal processing, radio and radar propagation and phenomena, and military technology.

A frequent consultant and advisor to government and industry on matters relating to science and technology, Wiesner became a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1957, and in 1961 took a three-year leave of absence from MIT to serve as a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy for science and technology and as chair of the President's Science Advisory Committee. He helped establish the Arms Control Agency. From 1947 to 1981 he served on the Technology Advisory Council of the Office of Technology Assessment of the United States Congress, and he was elected its chair in 1976. In 1958 Wiesner became associated with the Pugwash Group to improve communication between scientists in communist countries and the West. After his retirement from the MIT presidency in 1980, Wiesner worked on teaching and research in technical and policy areas related to science, technology, and society, with a strong emphasis on halting the arms race.


215.3 Cubic Feet (215 record cartons, 1 manuscript box, 3 flat boxes, 2 shoe boxes, 1 folio, 4 audiocassettes)

Language of Materials



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

Related Materials

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President and Chancellor, records of Jerome B. Wiesner (AC 8).


  • Beyond the looking glass : the United States military in 2000 & later by Jerome Wiesner, Philip Morrison, Kosta Tsipis. Cambridge, MA: Program in Science and Technology for International Security, MIT, 1993.
  • Jerry Wiesner : scientist, statesman, humanist : memories and memoirs, edited by Walter A. Rosenblith. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.
  • Where science and politics meet, by Jerome B. Wiesner. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965.
  • ABM; an evaluation of the decision to deploy an antiballistic missile system, edited by Abram Chayes and Jerome B. Wiesner. Introducton by Edward M. Kennedy. Contributors: Hans A. Bethe and others. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.
  • A gathering to honor and celebrate the life of Jerome B. Wiesner, 1915-1994: Institute professor, president 1971-1980, Massachusetts Institute of Technology December 2, 1994. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1994.
  • A random walk through the twentieth century. [CD]Glorianna Davenport, co-director ; Cheryl Morse, co-director. MIT Media Lab, 1996.
  • "President emeritus Jerome Wiesner is dead at 79". MIT News Office, October 26, 1994.
  • National Academy of Sciences, Jerome Bert Wiesner, 1915–1994, a Biographical Memoir by Louis Smullin. Biographical Memoirs, volume 78, Washington, DC: the National Academy Press, 2000.


The following boxes have been screened:

-Box 77 (DH, 2/19/14)

Processing Information note


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 Papers of Jerome B. Wiesner
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 March 29: Revised by processing archivist Chris Tanguay in March 2023 to update access notes and enhance 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