Conant, James Bryant

Conant, James Bryant

(kō`nənt), 1893–1978, American educator, chemist, and diplomat, b. Dorchester, Mass., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1913; Ph.D., 1916). Except for a brief period in the army (1917–19), Conant taught chemistry at Harvard from 1916 until 1933, when he became president of Harvard (1933–53). As chairman (1941–46) of the National Defense Research Committee, he played a significant role in the development of the atomic bomb, and after World War II he was an adviser to the National Science Foundation and the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1953 he was appointed U.S. High Commissioner for Germany and later served as ambassador to West Germany (1955–57). He directed a number of extensive investigations of American education and published widely in the field. Conant's writings include Education in a Divided World (1948), Modern Science and Modern Man (1952), Education and Liberty (1953), Slums and Suburbs (1961), The Comprehensive High School (1967), and Scientific Principles and Moral Conduct (1967).

Bibliography

See his autobiography (1970); biographies by J. Hershberg (1991) and J. Conant, his granddaughter (2017).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

Conant, James Bryant

(1893–1978) chemist, diplomat, educator; born in Dorchester, Mass. A Harvard-educated organic chemist noted for his work on chlorophyll and hemoglobin, he taught at Harvard (1916–33) and was president there (1933–53), where he strengthened the professional schools, increased the geographic and social diversity of students, opened the university to women, and introduced curricular reforms. Conant chaired the National Defense Research Committee (1941–46), which developed the atomic bomb, and was instrumental in the targeting of Hiroshima, Japan. He helped found the National Science Foundation (1950). His diplomatic career in the 1950s included four years as high commissioner and ambassador to West Germany. Finally turning toward the reform of public education, Conant conducted an extensive Carnegie Corporation study of American high schools which resulted in The American High School Today (1959). His many other educational contributions include Slums and Suburbs (1961), The Education of American Teachers (1963), and The Comprehensive High School (1967).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.