Jack Marburger

In today’s NYT, an obit (by Paul Vitello): “John H. Marburger, Bush Science Adviser, Dies at 70”. Jack was a Princeton classmate of mine, and, although we weren’t close, I counted him as one of the Good Guys (in a place where there were enough men with the contempt of the privileged for the proles to make life uncomfortable).

Jack got a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford and went on to teach and to serve in the academic administration at USC, going on to the presidency of SUNY Stony Brook and the directorship of Brookhaven National Laboratory, before being tapped as George W. Bush’s science adviser, a position in which he was obliged to defend administration policies that he almost surely opposed personally (though he was careful never to state his own positions).

It’s a situation I could never imagine myself being able to survive in, but Jack did his level best. A situation in which you’re obliged to carry out the policies of your superiors (or resign, or be fired). So very different from academic life (at least for the tenured, though their numbers are rapidly shrinking to insignificance), where (if supports for academic freedom work) administrators cannot dictate the positions you must take.





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