Edward E. David, Jr.

Edward E. David, Jr.
North Carolina, USA
Death date
Associated organizations
Bell Labs
Fields of study


Edward Emil David, Jr. (IRE Associate, 1948; Member, 1956; Senior Member, 1958) was a research scientist, corporate executive, and the science adviser to President Richard M. Nixon.

David was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on 25 January 1925, and received a B.E.E. in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1945. After serving in the United States Navy during World War II, and upon the war's end, he enrolled in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He earned an M.S. and Sc.D. from MIT in 1947 and 1950, respectively. At MIT he was the first graduate student of Jerome Wiesner, who left MIT to become President John F. Kennedy's science adviser.

After graduating from MIT, he worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1950 until 1970. At Bell Labs, he earned eight patents derived from his experiments in underwater sound.

He began his career at Bell Labs as a specialist in underwater sound, applying this expertise to research in undersea warfare and communication. In the early 1960s, David researched acoustical psychophysics with the goal of determining how the brain received sound. He developed sound reproduction technologies, such as an inexpensive artificial larynx to correct speech disorders after surgery, and published a number of books on sound and communications. In 1965, David was appointed Bell Labs' executive director of communications system research. He led a team of 200 scientists working on communications principles and electronic systems, such as technologies to prevent airplane hijackings.

On 19 August 1970, President Nixon nominated David to replace Lee A. Dubridge as Director of the Office of Science and Technology and Science Adviser to the President. His nomination was confirmed in September 1970 and he served for twenty-eight months, until resigning in January 1973, as Science Adviser to the President, Director of the Office of Science and Technology, Chairman of the Federal Council for Science and Technology, and Chairman of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC).

David, the first industrial scientist selected for this role, entered office with the goal of balancing the needs of scientists, the President’s staff, research, and the public. He drafted a program that expanded federal funding for hazardous projects, like fast-breeder nuclear reactors, offered anti-trust immunity to that pooled research resources, and backed loans for smaller companies. He also sought to expand federal and state control over public utilities to develop new sources of power and conserve. David left this role in January 1973, having clashed with the Nixon administration over its plans to site anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) and build a supersonic jet. In a New York Times article (3 January 1973), Richard D. Lyons wrote that David resigned from his position with Nixon in 1973 because of “disappointment that his advice had not been heeded." These conflicts contributed to Nixon’s decision to abolish PSAC in 1973.

David returned to the private sector, leading research teams at Gould, Inc., in the mid-1970s, and Exxon Research and Engineering from 1977 until 1986. He also served as U.S. Representative to the NATO Science Committee and sat on twenty boards of directors and technical advisory boards.