The White House science adviser to President George W. Bush and 14-year SUNY Stony Brook University president, John H. Marburger III, has died. He was 70.
A Democrat, Marburger was in charge of science policy during the entire eight years of the Republican administration, often dealing with issues about man-made global warming and claims of political interference in science. He was a physicist. He was also the longest serving presidential science adviser in U.S. history.
Former President Bush, in a statement, said, Marburger “was a joy to work with. Jack was dedicated to his field, his family, and his country.”
Marburger was the third president of Stony Brook University, serving for 14 years. Then he was director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Both institutions are on Long Island in New York.
“Jack Marburger had a remarkable ability to defuse explosive situations and get people to collaborate for the greater good,” said former Stony Brook University president Shirley Strum Kenny, who took over when Marburger went to run the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven lab in 1994.
From 2001 to 2009 during his White House tenure, Marburger had more than his share of explosive situations to deal with, including the president’s decision to restrict federal funding of stem cell research to climate change.
Scientists claimed the Bush Administration had a “war on science” and Marburger was caught in the middle in a public dispute between his colleagues in the White House and his former colleagues in academic life.
“I think people overestimate the power of government to affect science,” he told The New York Times in 2004. “Science has so many self-correcting aspects that I’m not really worried about these things.”
Marburger repeatedly said the White House did not deny the science behind climate change, but had a free-market philosophy that was not anti-science.
“Those of us who had the privilege to know him benefited greatly from his extensive knowledge, pragmatic thinking, and warm friendship, and we take comfort in knowing that his determination to explore new scientific frontiers and his enduring commitment to America’s farsighted focus on science and technology will be continued by all those he inspired,” John Holdren, the current White House science adviser, said in a statement.
Holdren noted that Marburger worked while also battling cancer. In 2010, he returned to Stony Brook to be its vice president of research.
Marburger died Thursday at his home in Port Jefferson, N.Y., after four years of treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He is survived by his wife, Carol, and two sons, John of Annandale, Va., and Alexander of Jamaica Plain, Mass.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.