Lewis M. Branscomb


Lewis M. Branscomb
Lewis M. Branscomb
Asheville, NC
Death date
Associated organizations
IBM, National Bureau of Standards, National Academy of Sciences


Dr. Lewis M. Branscomb, was born on Aug. 17, 1926, in Asheville, NC. He left high school early to receive accelerated training at Duke University, sponsored by the Navy, where he earned a bachelor's degree summa cum laude in physics at 19 in 1945. After serving in the Naval Reserve, he earned his masters and Ph.D. from Harvard, in 1947 and 1949 respectively. He joined the Bureau in 1951, served as chief of the NBS Laboratory Astrophysics Division, and was chairman of the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics before his appointment as director of NBS. As a noted physicist, Dr. Branscomb was appointed director of the National Bureau of Standards by President Nixon in 1969, in which he served until 1972. He joined IBM as chief scientist in May 1972 and was elected an IBM vice president the following month, and was chief scientist of IBM, responsible for guiding the corporation's scientific and technical programs to ensure that they met long-term needs.

During his lengthy career, he has taught at Harvard, University College, London, the University of Maryland, and the University of Colorado. He served on President Johnson's Science Advisory Committee in the 1960s, and served as chair of the National Science Board from 1980 to 1984. Dr. Branscomb has received the Rockefeller Public Service Award and the District of Columbia Junior Chamber of Commerce's Arthur Flemming Award. He also has received the Samuel Wesley Stratton Award and the Gold Medal for Exceptional Service from the United States Department of Commerce. He holds honorary doctor of science degrees from Duke, Western Michigan and Rochester Universities.

Among his affiliations, Dr. Branscomb was a member of the President's Commission for the Medal of Science, National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society and the American Physical Society.

He served on the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the board of trustees of the Rand Corporation, and was chairman of the Commission on Atomic and Molecular Physics and Spectroscopy of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. Dr. and Mrs. Branscomb had two children. Branscomb was the author of several books including "Empowering Technology: Implementing a U.S. Policy" (1993), "Confessions of a Technophile" (1995) and "Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism" (2002). Branscomb died on May 31st, 2023.