James R. Killian

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James Rhyne Killian (1904 - 1988)

Killian was the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) between 1949 and 1959. He took leave from this job between November 1957 and July 1959 to serve as the first presidential science advisor. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), which Killian chaired, following the Sputnik crisis. After leaving the White House staff in 1959, Killian continued his work at MIT.

In 1965 he began working with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to develop public television. Killian described his experiences as a presidential advisor in Sputnik, Scientists, and Eisenhower: A Memoir of the First Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977). Greg Herken has also described Killian's work with the PSAC in Cardinal Choices: Science Advice to the President from Hiroshima to SDI (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Upon his death, he was memorialized by Paul E. Gran, President of M.I.T., and David S. Saxon, Chairman of the university's corporation. Killian was a Unitarian.