BOSTON—The executive director of Sigma Xi, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious scientific societies, has been forced out in a bitter dispute over the proper role of the organization.

C. Ian Jackson, hired in 1981 as an outsider with a new vision for the 101-year-old honorary society, was asked to leave June 19 by the organization's board of directors. The board was scheduled to meet last weekend to discuss plans for choosing his successor.

"I am not leaving voluntarily," Jackson asserted in an interview from his home in New Haven, Conn., the headquarters of the society. "I would have liked to stay on and complete some of the changes that have begun, but I don't want to make more controversy than already exists."

Although his departure appears to be the result of a major ideological battle over the direction the society should take, insiders also portray it as...

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