Image: John Marburger
BNL / Nature
John Marburger, shown here at the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in 2000, died on Thursday at the age of 70. Marburger served as the lab's director from 1998 to 2001, and as presidential science adviser from 2001 to 2009.
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updated 7/29/2011 7:53:01 PM ET 2011-07-29T23:53:01

The White House science adviser to President George W. Bush, John H. Marburger III, has died. He was 70.

A Democrat, Marburger was in charge of science policy during the eight years of Bush's Republican administration, often dealing with issues about human-caused global warming and claims of political interference in science. He was a physicist. He also was the longest serving presidential science adviser in U.S. history.

Bush said in a statement that Marburger "was a joy to work with. Jack was dedicated to his field, his family and his country."

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Marburger was the third president of Stony Brook University, serving for 14 years. Then he was director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Both institutions are on Long Island in New York state. He was known as Jack.

"Jack Marburger had a remarkable ability to defuse explosive situations and get people to collaborate for the greater good," said former Stony Brook University president Shirley Strum Kenny, who took over when Marburger went to run the Department of Energy's Brookhaven lab in 1994.

From 2001 to 2009 during his White House tenure, Marburger had more than his share of explosive situations to deal with, including climate change and the president's decision to restrict federal funding of stem cell research to climate change.

Scientists claimed the Bush Administration had a "war on science," and Marburger was caught in the middle in a public dispute between his colleagues in the White House and his former colleagues in academic life.

"I think people overestimate the power of government to affect science," he told The New York Times in 2004. "Science has so many self-correcting aspects that I'm not really worried about these things."

Marburger repeatedly said the White House did not deny the science behind climate change but had a free-market philosophy that was not anti-science.

"Those of us who had the privilege to know him benefited greatly from his extensive knowledge, pragmatic thinking, and warm friendship, and we take comfort in knowing that his determination to explore new scientific frontiers and his enduring commitment to America's farsighted focus on science and technology will be continued by all those he inspired," John Holdren, the current White House science adviser, said in a statement.

Holdren noted that Marburger worked while also battling cancer. In 2010, he returned to Stony Brook to be its vice president of research.

Marburger died Thursday at his home in Port Jefferson, New York, after four years of treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He is survived by his wife, Carol.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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