National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
Office of News and Public Information
National Academy of Engineering
Back | Home
News from the National Academies

 

Jan. 28, 2013

 

1920-2013: Donald Hornig, Science Adviser to President Johnson


Donald Hornig, portrait by John Howard Sanden, courtesy Brown UniversityNational Academy of Sciences member Donald Hornig, a scientist on the Manhattan Project who later served as science adviser to President Lyndon Johnson and president of Brown University, died last week. He was 92. Hornig became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1957 at age 37, one of the youngest scientists ever elected

Hornig was born in Milwaukee in 1920. He attended Harvard University, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1940 and a Ph.D. in 1943, both in chemistry. After time at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he became a group leader at Los Alamos, working on building the nation's first atomic bomb. After World War II, Hornig became a professor and a dean at Brown University, and then moved to Princeton University. While at Princeton, he was on Dwight D. Eisenhower's scientific advisory committee.

President John F. Kennedy named Hornig as his science adviser shortly before his assassination in 1963; President Johnson followed through on Hornig's appointment. During his tenure as Johnson's science adviser from 1964 to 1969, Hornig doubled the budget for what is now the Office of Science and Technology Policy, addressing issues such as developing the potential of the oceans and coping with world food problems. He was among the first scientific officers in government to make environmental issues a national priority.

In 1970, Hornig became president of Brown University, at a time when the institution was running significant deficits and the national economy was in a slump. By the time Hornig resigned in 1975, Brown was back on sound financial footing. Hornig then taught at the Harvard School of Public Health until he retired in 1990.

In his decades of service to the National Academy of Sciences, Hornig served as the first chair of the National Research Council's Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology from 1986 to 1988. He was a member of the Commission on Life Sciences, co-vice chair of the Board of Toxicology and Environmental Health Hazards, and served on several other committees and boards.