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James Bryant Conant (1893-1978) was born on March 26 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Conant was a Harvard-educated organic chemist noted for his work on chlorophyll and hemoglobin. He taught at Harvard from 1916 to 1933 and was president there from 1933 to 1953. Conant is recognized for strengthening the professional schools, increasing the geographic and social diversity of students, opening the university to women, and introducing curricular reforms.

Conant chaired the National Defense Research Committee, which developed the atomic bomb, and was instrumental in the targeting of Hiroshima, Japan. He helped found the National Science Foundation in 1950. His diplomatic career in the 1950s included four years as high commissioner and ambassador to West Germany. Finally turning toward the reform of public education, Conant conducted an extensive Carnegie Corporation study of American high schools which resulted in The American High School Today (1959). His many other educational contributions include Slums and Suburbs (1961), The Education of American Teachers (1963, and The Comprehensive High School (1967).

“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”

“Democracy is a small hard core of common agreement, surrounded by a rich variety of individual differences.”

“Whether a man lives or dies in vain can be measured only by the way he faces his own problems, by the success or failure of the inner conflict within his own soul. And of this no one may know save God.”

“Every vital organization owes its birth and life to an exciting and daring idea.”

“Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance.”