A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf

To the HKS Community,

The New York Times reported last weekend that Lewis Branscomb has passed away. Lew, an important force behind the Kennedy School’s work on science and technology, was a faculty member at the School from 1986 to 1996; he then shifted to Emeritus status but remained actively engaged in our community for many years. 

As the Times’ interesting obituary explains, Lew Branscomb was a research physicist who led the National Bureau of Standards and was the chief scientist at IBM, among other roles, before coming to the Kennedy School.
Lew was the second director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy (STPP) program at our Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, following founding director Harvey Brooks. Lew continued Harvey’s commitment to addressing both the use of science and technology in public policy and appropriate policy regarding science and technology. Lew’s specific interests included information technology and innovation, and he taught courses on many different topics at the intersection of science, technology, and policy.
Professor Graham Allison told me that “Lew had an insatiable curiosity, an infectious enthusiasm for addressing seemingly intractable challenges, and a confident optimism about the ability of science and technology to build a better world.” Professor Al Carnesale, who served as dean of the Kennedy School in the early 1990s, wrote to me: “Lew brought to the Kennedy School not only his success as a scientist and his experience in government and industry, but also an engaging personality and a commitment to the education of our students. We were fortunate to have him as a friend and colleague.”
Professor John Holdren, who followed Lew in directing the STPP program, said: “Lew was often the smartest person in the room, but it was not in his character to try to insist that the others present acknowledge that. He was a perfect gentleman and a gentle mentor, as well as a great intellect, a gifted leader, and a committed humanitarian. It was one of the signal pleasures of my life to get to know and learn from this great man.”
We can all be grateful that Lewis Branscomb was a member of the Kennedy School community and that he played such a key role in helping the School to serve the public interest.