Donald Hornig

Donald Frederick Hornig (March 17, 1920 – January 21, 2013) was an American chemist, explosives expert, teacher and presidential science advisor. He served as president of Brown University from 1970 to 1976.

Donald Hornig
14th President of Brown University
In office
Preceded byRay Heffner
Succeeded byHoward Swearer
Director of the Office of Science and Technology
In office
January 24, 1964 – January 20, 1969
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byJerome Wiesner
Succeeded byLee DuBridge
Personal details
Donald Frederick Hornig

(1920-08-17)August 17, 1920
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedJanuary 21, 2013(2013-01-21) (aged 92)
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
EducationHarvard University (BS, MS, PhD)

Life and careerEdit

Hornig was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Chester Arthur Hornig and Emma Knuth. He attended Milwaukee Country Day School, then earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Harvard University. He was awarded his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1943, at the age of 23, with a dissertation on An Investigation of the Shock Wave Produced by an Explosion in Air.[1] On July 17, 1943 he was married to scientist Lilli Hornig. The couple had four children together: three girls, Joanna, Ellen, and Leslie, and one boy, Christopher.

After graduating, he started work at the Underwater Explosives Laboratory of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. While there, according to one obituary, he received an invitation to begin a new job, but he was not told what his duties would be, nor, initially, to where he would relocate. At first he refused, but Harvard University President James B. Conant helped persuade him to reconsider.[2] Thus, he joined the Los Alamos Laboratory, where he was a group leader in the Manhattan Project. He worked on the firing unit that was used for the implosion of the plutonium device.[3] He helped prepare the first atomic bomb, Trinity, and witnessed its explosion, the first detonation of a nuclear device. He was sent up to the top of the tower twice the previous day to reassure a nervous Robert Oppenheimer that all was well.[2]

In 1946 he joined the staff of Brown University as an assistant professor, and became a full professor in 1951. From 1951 to 1952 he was Associate Dean of the Graduate School, then acting dean the following year. In 1957 he became a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the same year he moved to Princeton University in 1957. Later became chairman of the Princeton chemistry department.[4]

Shortly before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, he announced Hornig as the presidential science advisor. Hornig assumed office on January 24, 1964, but did not enjoy good relations with the new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who enjoyed a poor relationship with many scientists.[2] He left office at the end of the president's term in 1969, and accepted an executive position with Eastman Kodak Company.[5]

In 1970 he became president of Brown University, and he remained in office until he resigned in 1976. The end of his term was noted for financial cutbacks at the university, which was met by student protests. Thereafter he became Professor of Chemistry in Public Health at Harvard University. From 1987 to 1990 he served the Harvard University School of Public Health as chairman of the Department of Environmental Health. He retired in 1990.[6]

Since 2013, Hornig has been listed on the Advisory Council of the National Center for Science Education.[7]

Hornig died from Alzheimer's disease[8] in Providence, Rhode Island on January 21, 2013.[9]

Awards and honorsEdit


  1. ^ Donald Frederick Hornig at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ a b c Donald Hornig, Last to See First A-Bomb, Dies at 92, The New York Times, January 26, 2013
  3. ^ Borman, Stu (July 17, 1995). "Chemists Reminisce On 50th Anniversary Of The Atomic Bomb". Chemical & Engineering News Archive. Chemical & Engineering News. 73 (29): 53–63. doi:10.1021/cen-v073n029.p053. Archived from the original (Abstract) on May 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  4. ^ Staff. "Donald Hornig". Brown University. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  5. ^ Boffey, Philip M. (January 31, 1969). "The Hornig Years: Did LBJ Neglect His Science Advisor?". Science. 163 (3866): 453–458. Bibcode:1969Sci...163..453B. doi:10.1126/science.163.3866.453. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17731760.
  6. ^ "Dr. Donald Hornig". Colorado University-Boulder. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  7. ^ "Advisory Council". National Center for Science Education. 2008-07-15. Archived from the original on 2013-08-10. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  8. ^ "American Institute of Physics". Archived from the original on 2013-06-16. Retrieved 2013-04-18.
  9. ^ Morgan, Thomas J. (2013-01-22). "Donald F. Hornig dies; was president of Brown University". Breaking News. The Providence Journal. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  10. ^ "Charles Lathrop Parsons Award". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  11. ^ President's Office (August 5, 1996). "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Boston College 1952-1995". Boston College. Archived from the original on September 15, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  12. ^ Staff (June 19, 2006). "Honorary Degrees". University of Maryland Libraries. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  13. ^ Staff (2008). "Recipient of Honorary Degrees". Archives and Records Management, Syracuse University. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2008-05-27.

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by Director of the Office of Science and Technology
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by President of Brown University
Succeeded by