A trained theoretical physicist, Carter devoted his wide-ranging knowledge to government service.
November 2, 2022
Ashton Carter. Photo taken from MIT News.
Ashton Carter. Photo from MIT News.

Ashton Carter, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and a lifelong advocate of technological innovation who applied his training as a physicist toward public policy, died of a heart attack on Octover 24 in Boston. He was 68.

As secretary of defense in the Obama administration, Carter was best known for opening the way for women in the military to take on combat roles and for transgender people to serve. He engaged with MIT in a variety of roles throughout his career, including as a member of the executive committee of the MIT Corporation, the Institute’s board of trustees, and as a member and chair of the advisory board of MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

“Above all, Ash was a spectacular leader and a citizen-servant,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “When I first met him — years ago, on the Lincoln Laboratory advisory board — what stood out immediately was his intellect: Ash was brilliant, and that’s saying something at MIT. But what I quickly came to admire most about him is that, in the best MIT tradition, his brilliance was matched by his down-to-earth manner, humility, warmth, and generosity.”