John J. Martin was educated as a mechanical engineer, receiving a Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1951. He joined North American Aviation in 1951 and moved to the Bendix Corp. in 1953. In 1960 he joined the Institute for Defense Analyses and in 1969 moved to the staff of the President's Science Advisor at the White House. During 1973-1974 he served as the Associate Deputy to the Director of Central Intelligence and was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Research and Development), 1974-1976, before returning to Bendix. He became a NASA official in 1984, as Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology at the NASA Headquarters, before returning to industry in 1985.