April 24, 2024

As the Cold War ended, physicist Lewis Branscomb worried that America’s economic and scientific superiority was at stake. He argues that the decline in scientific literacy and critical thinking in American education could have disastrous consequences for the country.

In 1986, he said on PBS’ “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” “Students don’t need to know a lot of facts about science, but they do need to know how to think like scientists—that is, in complex A problem-solving approach to making decisions in context.”

Whether in academia, private industry, or government, Dr. Branscomb has made it his mission to advance science and empower science to play a greater role in public policy. He holds out hope for a brighter future through technology, but only if scientists and policymakers can get the public behind the idea.

Dr. Branscomb, who spent his entire career at the intersection of science, technology, policy and business, died May 31 in a nursing facility in Redwood City, California, said his son Harvey. He is 96 years old.

Dr. Branscomb directed the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology), the federal government’s authoritative standards and measurement laboratory, from 1969 to 1972. Later chief scientist at IBM, former professor at Harvard University, author of hundreds of papers, author or author of about a dozen books.

Dr. Branscomb began working for the government after World War II, and nearly 60 years later he is advising the Senate on America’s vulnerability following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

During this time, he developed fundamental science and improved measurement methods at the National Bureau of Standards; helped IBM transform its computers from cumbersome mainframes (which could cost more than cars) into devices suitable for home offices; Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Ronald Reagan provided advice on policy issues, particularly the space program.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former IBM researcher and executive, said in a telephone interview that Dr. Branscomb played an important role at the company leading the development of technologies such as computer memory and storage, networking products and semiconductors. Dr. Branscomb “has a vision to make sure that IBM becomes a world-class research company,” he said.

Dr Branscomb called on private industry to join the Department of Defense and other government agencies in pushing for technology development, and expressed concern that the end of the space race with the Soviet Union would lead to a decline in the strength of NASA.

“NASA once challenged industry to do more than anyone had done before,” he says in the book. testify before congress In 1991, “Today, the best commercial companies take greater risks and further extend their technologies to levels of performance and reliability that NASA no longer achieves or even expects.”

Dr. Branscomb wrote in Confessions of a Technophile (1995) that the onus rested on scientists to rekindle society’s enthusiasm for their work, arguing that the scientific community had a duty to “recognize the legitimate sex, however superficial that desire may be,” in a newfound excitement. “

Lewis McAdory Branscomb was born on August 17, 1926 in Asheville, North Carolina, to Harvie Branscomb and Margaret Margaret (Vaughan) Branscomb. His father was the dean and librarian of the Divinity School at Duke University and later the president of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.His mother oversaw the planting of magnolia trees on the Vanderbilt campus and honored the statue There.

A promising student from an early age, Lewis left high school early and received an accelerated education at Duke University as part of a Navy program to train future scientists.

At age 19, he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and then served as an officer in the Naval Reserve. In 1946, he resigned from the Navy and enrolled at Harvard University, earning his master’s degree a year later and his doctorate in 1949.

In 1951, Dr. Branscomb became a research physicist, studying the structure and spectrum of molecular and atomic anions for the National Bureau of Standards, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the oldest federal body of research in the physical sciences One of the laboratories.

In the early 1960s, he moved from Washington to Boulder, Colorado, where he helped found the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (now JILA), a cooperative project between the Bureau of Standards and the University of Colorado to In advancing astrophysics research. He later served as the chairman of the institute.

He joined President Johnson’s Science Advisory Board in the mid-1960s, as the Apollo program prepared to land astronauts on the moon in 1969. That year, President Nixon appointed him Director of the Bureau of Standards, a position he held until he left the United States in 1972, IBM.

He was IBM’s chief scientist until 1986, during which time the company built components for the space shuttle, built computer mainframes and entered the personal computer market to compete with rivals such as Apple and Tandy.

In 1980, Dr. Branscomb became Chairman of the National Science Council, which develops National Science Foundation policy and advises Congress and the President. He held this position until 1984.

Dr. Branscomb left IBM to become a professor and director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has also served on the boards of directors of companies such as Mobil and General Foods.

Books he has authored and edited include Empowering Technology: Implementing U.S. Policy (1993) and Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (2002, with Richard Klausner et al. cooperate).

dr branscomb married Margaret Anne Wells, a lawyer and computer communications specialist in the early 1950s. She died in 1997.

In 2005, he married Constance Hammond Mullin, with whom he lived for many years in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. She outlived him.

In addition to his wife and son, his survivors include daughter KC Kelley; three stepchildren: Stephen J. Mullin, Keith Mullin and Laura Thompson (Laura Thompson); and a granddaughter.

In the preface to Confessions of a Technophile, Dr. Branscomb describes himself as an “incorrigible optimist” who “has been driven throughout his life by a firm belief that the A bright future depends on the judicious and creative use of technology.”

He added in a footnote that he was an optimist not because of logic but because of “assertion.”

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