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John H. Marburger III

by Susan J. Ainsworth
September 5, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 36

Credit: Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory
John H. Marburger III
Credit: Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

John H. Marburger III, 70, a physicist who was the White House science adviser to President George W. Bush, a former president of State University of New York, Stony Brook, and a former director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, died at his home in Port Jefferson, N.Y., on July 28, after being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for four years.

Born on Staten Island, N.Y., Marburger earned a B.A. degree in physics from Princeton University in 1962 and a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University in 1967.

Marburger served as a professor of physics and electrical engineering at the University of Southern California before becoming the third president of Stony Brook in 1980. He became director of Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1998. Under his leadership, the lab commissioned the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.

During Marburger’s eight-year stint as science adviser to President Bush and director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy, Marburger helped keep the political effects of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, from adversely affecting science research. He also played a significant role in international negotiations on climate change that would form the basis for U.S. climate policy.

Marburger believed that there was a need for a “science of science policy,” advocating for the use of data collection, theory testing, and other scientific methods to analyze science policy decisions, including where federal agencies invest their R&D dollars. At the end of the Bush presidency in 2009, Marburger was the longest-serving science adviser in history.

Marburger returned to Stony Brook as a physics professor in 2009 and served as its vice president for research until weeks before his death.

Marburger is survived by his wife, Carol; sons, John and Alexander; and one grandson.



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