Philip M. Smith, the executive officer of the National Academy of Sciences and its operating arm, the National Research Council, from 1981 to 1994, died Feb. 16 at a hospital in Albuquerque. He was 81.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his executor, David Garrison.

Mr. Smith, who trained as a geologist, had a five-decade career in science, technology and public policy.

While in the Army in the mid-1950s, he was sent to Greenland and helped develop a technique to detect crevasses in glaciers. He subsequently participated in the Navy’s efforts to build antarctic stations as part of the International Geophysical Year of 1957 and 1958.

He continued working on antarctic programs with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation and, from 1975 to 1981, served as associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for natural resources, energy and science.

Philip Meek Smith was a native of Springfield, Ohio, and a 1954 geology graduate of Ohio State University, where he also received a master’s degree in science education in 1955.

After leaving the National Academy of Sciences, he served on National Research Council committees and many other scientific boards. He moved to Santa Fe, N.M., from Washington in 1997 and became a science and technology policy consultant.

He enjoyed white-water rafting and, in 1960, participated in a successful powerboat run against the current up the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon — a feat widely reviewed as nearly impossible, Garrison said.

In 2012, Mr. Smith celebrated his 80th birthday by leading an expedition of friends to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Survivors include a brother.

— Adam Bernstein