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James Bryant Conant

James Bryant Conant was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1893. In 1914, Conant graduated from Harvard University with a degree in chemistry and remained at the school to pursue graduate work. In 1917, Conant briefly left Harvard to join the Chemical Warfare Service, where he earned the rank of major.

Conant returned to Harvard in 1917 to teach organic chemistry. In 1933, he was appointed president of Harvard University. During his term, Conant worked to expand the composition of the student body, the school's teaching fields and the scope of each student's education, implementing the General Education Program, which required every undergraduate to take courses in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

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Between 1941 and 1946, Conant served as chairman of the National Defense Research Committee. This committee oversaw the technical aspects of military scientific research, including atomic research, which contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. Conant served on the Interim Committee that made the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japanese cities without providing warning.

Conant retired from Harvard in 1953 and began a term of service as U.S. High Commissioner to Germany and Ambassador to Germany. In 1957, he resigned and returned to the United States to focus on domestic education. Conant returned to Berlin in 1964 and spent 18 months as an education advisor through the Ford Foundation.

Conant eventually retired to New York City. In the spring of 1977 he became ill while vacationing in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he remained until his death.

James Bryant Conant died on 11 February 1978.