Prof. Lewis M. Branscomb in 1960
(Image courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, copyright (c) 2001 American Institute of Physics.)

Lewis Branscomb played the role of "Professor" in the two 1951 performances of "The Physical Review". [By the time of the third performance, he had begun his next position, at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS).] At the time of the 1951 shows, he was an instructor at Harvard, having received his Ph.D. in 1949. He played a key role in setting up the first performance: He told his Physics 11A class (the one designed for physics concentrators) that their last class meeting would be a review session, but in fact it was "The Physical Revue"! Read more here.

He has achieved remarkable careers in the two fields of physics and public policy. He pioneered the study of atomic and molecular negative ions and their role in the atmospheres of the Earth and stars. After his position at Harvard, he began work at NBS (now NIST). While there, he became Chief of the Atomic Physics Section (1954), then the first Chairman of the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) in 1962. He chaired the President's Panel on Space Science and Technology during the critical early period of the Apollo program, 1967-68. He became Director of the NBS in 1969.

He was president of the American Physical Society in 1979. He served as advisor to three U.S. Presidents, and chaired the National Science Board from 1980-1984. Since 1986, he has been the Director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has received ten major awards and fifteen honorary degrees.

He has 514 scholarly publications (!) and has authored more than eight books. Together with his wife Anne Wells Branscomb, he created the Branscomb Family Foundation. Learn more about his life and the foundation here.

Some of the books that Prof. Branscomb has recently authored or edited (click on the cover to purchase from

Return to main page for "The Physical Revue"

Suggest more or better links .. Return to main page

Background image: Covers for Tom Lehrer's albums