Lewis Branscomb, Champion of Science Across Fields, Dies at 96

As the Cold War was waning, the physicist Lewis Branscomb feared that America’s economic and scientific superiority was in jeopardy. Declining scientific literacy and critical thinking in American education, he believed, could have disastrous consequences for the country.

Students, he told “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS in 1986, “don’t need to know a lot of facts about science, but they really do need to understand how to think in the way scientists think — that is, in a problem-solving approach, given a complex environment within which to make decisions.”

Whether in academia, private industry or government, Dr. Branscomb made it his job to push for the advancement of science and give it a bigger role in public policy. He held out hope for a brighter future through technology, but only if scientists and policymakers could get the public behind the idea.

Dr. Branscomb, who worked at the nexus of science, technology, policy and business throughout his career, died on May 31 at a care facility in Redwood City, Calif., his son, Harvie, said. He was 96.

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