John H. Marburger III, George W. Bush’s controversial science advisor, died of lymphoma last week at age 70.
Marburger, a physicist, headed The White House Office of Science and Technology for 8 years. During that time, he took heat for defending the Bush administration’s positions on climate change, abstinence-only education, and the use of human embryonic stem cells for basic research. In 2004, he came under fire for defending the administration against the National Academy of Science’s assertion that politics were skewing government agency research.
Even now, it is unclear whether Marburger, a lifelong democrat, publicly supported the administration’s policies out of conviction or a sense of duty. In 2004 he told an interviewer that his role was to “make sure science input to policy making is sound,” and that while he was on the job, “no one will know my personal positions on issues,” The New York Times reports.
Marburger was noted as a calm, level-headed manager who “brought peace and rationality to controversial issues,” longtime friend and fellow science administrator William Madia told ScienceInsider.
Before coming to the White House, Marburger headed the State University of New York at Stonybrook and was director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is survived by his wife, two sons, and a grandson.