SciAm Perspectives: Taking Heed; May 2008; Scientific American Magazine; by the Editors; 1 Page(s)
In the wake of the near panic over the launch of Sputnik in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed James Killian, the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to become the first special assistant to the president for science and technology. Ever since, the relationship between the nation's chief executive and the White House's resident authority on nuclear fission, the workings of DNA and the greenhouse effect, among an array of topics, has had its highs and lows.
To be sure, advice has flowed freely at times. Eisenhower consulted frequently with Killian and other scientists, and in the Kennedy years Jerome Wiesner, another M.I.T. president, helped to coordinate the government's response to the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, a book that spurred a national grassroots environmental movement by pointing out the dangers of pesticides.