James Rhyne Killian

For the NFL football player, see James Kilian.
James Killian
Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
In office
May 4, 1961  April 23, 1963
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
Preceded by John Hull
Succeeded by Clark Clifford
In office
January 13, 1956  March 1, 1958
President Dwight Eisenhower
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by John Hull
President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In office
Preceded by Karl Compton
Succeeded by Julius Stratton
Personal details
Born (1904-07-24)July 24, 1904
Blacksburg, South Carolina, U.S.
Died January 29, 1988(1988-01-29) (aged 83)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Awards Vannevar Bush Award (1980)

James Rhyne Killian, Jr. (July 24, 1904 January 29, 1988) was the 10th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from 1948 until 1959.

Early life

Killian received an S.B. (scientiae baccalaureus, B.S.) in management from MIT in 1926. While there, he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.


In 1932 while serving as the editor of MIT's alumni magazine, Killian was instrumental in the founding of Technology Press, the publishing imprint that would later become the institute's independent publishing house, MIT Press. He became executive assistant to MIT President Karl Taylor Compton in 1939, and co-directed the wartime operation of MIT, which strongly supported military research and development. He was from 1948 until 1959 the 10th president of MIT. In 1956, James R. Killian Jr was named as the 1st Chair to the new President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board by the Eisenhower Administration; a position which he held until April 1963.

He was Special Assistant for Science and Technology to President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1957 to 1959, making him the first true Presidential Science Advisor. Killian headed the Killian Committee and oversaw the creation of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) shortly after the launches of the Soviet artificial satellites, Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2, in October and November 1957. PSAC was instrumental in initiating national curriculum reforms in science and technology and in establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In 1956 Killian was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[1] He (co-)authored a book, "The Education of a College President" (1985), which serves as an autobiography as well. After stepping down as president of MIT in 1959, he served as chairman of the MIT Corporation from 1959 until 1971.

Two locations on MIT's campus bear Killian's name: Killian Court, a tree-lined courtyard with views of MIT's Great Dome, and Killian Hall, a concert hall (actually named after Killian's wife, Elizabeth Parks Killian, a Wellesley College alumna).


  1. "Public Welfare Award". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 17 February 2011.

Further reading

Academic offices
Preceded by
Karl Compton
President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Succeeded by
Julius Stratton
Government offices
New office Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
Succeeded by
John Hull
Preceded by
John Hull
Chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
Succeeded by
Clark Clifford
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