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John Ely Burchard

John Ely Burchard American architecture critic and historian

American architecture critic and historian
John Ely Burchard
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American architecture critic and historian
Known for President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
A.K.A. John E. Burchard
Was Academic Critic Historian
From United States of America
Type Education Social science
Gender male
Birth 1898, Marshall, Lyon County, Minnesota, USA
Death 25 December 1975 (aged 78 years)
Spouse: Marjorie Walker Gaines
Children: John Jr.Marshall G
College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts B.S. in architectural engineering 1923
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts M.S. in architectural engineering 1925
The details


John Ely Burchard (8 December 1898 - 25 December 1975) was an American architecture critic and historian, clean emeritus of the School of Humanities and Social Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in 1954-1957 president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a widely known and respected authority on housing and urban good taste.

Early life and education

John Ely Burchard was born on 8 December 1898 in Marshall, Minnesota.

Burchard began studying at the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, but had to leave the university after two and a half years when he was drafted into the Army Medical Corps in France during the First World War. On his return after the end of the war, he continued his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received a B.S. in architectural engineering in 1923 and an M.S. in 1925


After finishing his higher education, Burchard worked in private enterprise, as research director, vice president and a director of Bemis Industries Inc., and its subsidiary, Housing Company, for thirteen years. In 1938, he returned to MIT as a professor and director of the Albert Farwell Bemis Foundation. During the Second World War, in the years 1940-1945, he was worked for the National Research Council and the National Defense Research Committee. He chaired the committees for scientific information policy and for the conservation of natural resources, and headed four military‐scientific missions to the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, the Central Pacific and Germany.

In 1948 Burchard was awarded the Medal of Merit, the nation's highest civilian award, by President Harry S. Truman for his services during the war.

Burchard was the first dean of MIT's School of Humanities and Social Science, which founded in 1950. During his tenure until 1969, the profile and influence of MIT in research, architecture, science, and engineering grew significantly. He was responsible also for coming up with "Course XXI," in which students majored in humanities or the social sciences in combination with science or engineering. Additionally, he inaugurated the "Humanities in French" course for qualified students, and courses in music and drama were also expanded.

In 1950 Burchard was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was its president from 1954 to 1957.

He is the author of numerous publications on architectural history and criticism. He became particularly well-known with a monograph on the architectural history of America (translated together with historian Albert Bush-Brown). In 1966, he published a book on post-war architecture in Germany: The Voice of the Phoenix. In 1947, he and Lincoln Thiesmeyer co-authored Combat Scientists: Science In World War II and in 1963, he and historian Oscar Handlin wrote the book The Historian and the City.

He also wrote "Q.E.D.," the story of M.I.T.'s activities in World War II.


John Ely Burchard died on 25 December 1975 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was survived by his wife, the former Marjorie Walker Gaines, and two sons, John Jr. and Marshall G.

Selected publications

  • John Ely Burchard: Prefabricated housing and its marketing problems. In: American Marketing Journal. Band 2, Nr. 3, 1935, S. 150–156.
  • John Ely Burchard: The humanities and social sciences in a technological education. In: Journal of General Education. Band 2, Nr. 3, 1948, S. 171–178.
  • John Ely Burchard: The meaning of architecture. In: The Review of Politics. Band 20, Nr. 3, 1958, S. 358–372, doi:10.1017/S0034670500033076.
  • John Ely Burchard, James Rhyne Killian: Q.E.D.: M.I.T. in World War II. J. Wiley, 1948, S. 354.
  • John Burchard, Albert Bush-Brown: The Architecture of America: A Social and Cultural History. Little, Brown, Boston 1961, ISBN 978-0-316-11612-1, S. xii, 595.
  • John E. Burchard: The Voice of the Phoenix. Postwar Architecture in Germany. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1966, ISBN 978-0-262-02016-9, S. 208.
  • John R. Burchard, Ex-Dean at M.I.T. In: New York Times. 27. Dezember, 1975, S. 20 (online, accessed on December 20, 2018).
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Article Title: John Ely Burchard: American architecture critic and historian - Biography and Life
Author(s): PeoplePill.com Editorial Staff
Website Title: PeoplePill
Publisher: PeoplePill
Article URL: https://peoplepill.com/people/john-ely-burchard/
Publish Date: 12 Nov 2019
Date Accessed: 05 Jul 2020
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