Frederick Seitz (July 4, 1911 – March 2, 2008) was an American physicist, tobacco industry lobbyist, and climate change denier. Seitz was the 4th president of Rockefeller University from 1968 to 1978, and the 17th president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1962 to 1969. Seitz was the recipient of the National Medal of Science, NASA's Distinguished Public Service Award, and other honors.

Frederick Seitz
4th President of the Rockefeller University
In office
Preceded byDetlev Bronk
Succeeded byJoshua Lederberg
17th President of the National Academy of Sciences
In office
Preceded byDetlev Bronk
Succeeded byPhilip Handler
Personal details
Born(1911-07-04)July 4, 1911
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedMarch 2, 2008(2008-03-02) (aged 96)
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationStanford University (BS)
Princeton University (PhD)
Known forWigner–Seitz unit cell
AwardsNational Medal of Science (1973)
Vannevar Bush Award (1983)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Illinois
Rockefeller University
ThesisA matrix-algebraic development of the crystallographic groups (1934)
Doctoral advisorEugene Wigner
Doctoral studentsFranco Bassani
Ronald Fuchs
Jack Goldman
Walter A. Harrison [de]
James Stark Koehler

He founded the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and several other material research laboratories across the United States.[1][2] Seitz was also the founding chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute,[3] a tobacco industry consultant, and a prominent climate change denier.

Background and personal life


Seitz was born in San Francisco on July 4, 1911. His mother was also from San Francisco and his father, after whom he was named, was born in Germany.[4] Seitz graduated from Lick-Wilmerding High School in the middle of his senior year, and went on to study physics at Stanford University obtaining his bachelor's degree in three years,[1] graduating in 1932.[5] He married Elizabeth K. Marshall on May 18, 1935.[6]

Seitz died March 2, 2008, in New York.[7][8] He was survived by a son, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.[7]

Early career

Construction of a Wigner–Seitz primitive cell.

Seitz moved to Princeton University to study metals under Eugene Wigner,[1] gaining his PhD in 1934.[7][9] He and Wigner pioneered one of the first quantum theories of crystals, and developed concepts in solid-state physics such as the Wigner–Seitz unit cell[1] used in the study of crystalline material in solid-state physics.

Academic career


After graduate studies, Seitz continued to work on solid state physics, publishing The Modern Theory of Solids in 1940, motivated by a desire to "write a cohesive account of the various aspects of solid-state physics in order to give the field the kind of unity it deserved". The Modern Theory of Solids helped unify and understand the relations between the fields of metallurgy, ceramics, and electronics. He was also a consultant on many World War II-related projects in metallurgy, radiation damage to solids and electronics amongst others. He, along with Hillard Huntington, made the first calculation of the energies of formation and migration of vacancies and interstitials in copper, inspiring many works on point defects in metals.[1] The scope of his published work ranged widely, also covering "spectroscopy, luminescence, plastic deformation, irradiation effects, physics of metals, self-diffusion, point defects in metals and insulators, and science policy".[1]

Early in his academic career, Seitz served on the faculty of the University of Rochester (1935–37)[5] and after an interlude as a research physicist at General Electric Laboratories (1937–39)[5] he was at the University of Pennsylvania (1939–1942) and then the Carnegie Institute of Technology (1942–49).[5]

From 1946 to 1947, Seitz was director of the training program in atomic energy at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He was appointed professor of physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1949, becoming chairman of the department in 1957 and dean and vice-president for research in 1964. Seitz also served as an advisor to NATO.[7] From 1962 to 1969 Seitz served as president of the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS), in a full-time capacity from 1965.[10] As NAS president he initiated the Universities Research Association, which contracted with the Atomic Energy Commission to construct the world's largest particle accelerator at the time, Fermilab.[1]

He was the president of Rockefeller University from 1968 to 1978 during which he helped to launch new research programs in molecular biology, cell biology, and neuroscience as well as creating a joint MD-PhD program with Cornell University.[7] He retired from Rockefeller University in 1979, when he was made President Emeritus.

Consultancy career


After Seitz published a paper on the darkening of crystals, DuPont asked him in 1939 for help with a problem they were having with the stability of chrome yellow. He became "deeply involved" in their research efforts.[11] Among other things, he investigated the possible use of non-toxic silicon carbide as a white pigment.[12] Seitz was a director of Texas Instruments (1971–1982) and of Akzona Corporation (1973–1982).[13]

Shortly before his 1979 retirement from Rockefeller University, Seitz began working as a permanent consultant for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, advising their medical research program[14] until 1988.[7] Reynolds had previously provided "very generous" support for biomedical work at Rockefeller.[15] Seitz later wrote that "The money was all spent on basic science, medical science," and pointed to Reynolds-funded research on mad cow disease and tuberculosis.[7] Nonetheless, later academic studies of tobacco industry influence concluded that Seitz, who helped allocate $45m of Reynolds' research funding,[16] "played a key role... in helping the tobacco industry produce uncertainty concerning the health impacts of smoking."[17] According to a tobacco industry memo from 1989, Seitz was described by an employee of Philip Morris International as "quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice."[18]

In 1984 Seitz was the founding chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute,[19][20] and was its chairman until 2001.[21][22] The Institute was founded to argue for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative,[23] but "in the 1990s it branched out to become one of the leading think tanks trying to debunk the science of climate change."[24][25] A 1990 report co-authored with Institute co-founders Robert Jastrow and William Nierenberg "centrally informed the Bush administration's position on human-induced climate change".[26] The Institute also promoted environmental skepticism more generally. In 1994, the Institute published a paper by Seitz titled Global warming and ozone hole controversies: A challenge to scientific judgment. Seitz questioned the view that CFCs "are the greatest threat to the ozone layer".[27] In the same paper, commenting on the dangers of secondary inhalation of tobacco smoke, he concluded "there is no good scientific evidence that passive inhalation is truly dangerous under normal circumstances."[28]

Seitz was a central figure amongst global warming deniers.[7][29] He was the highest-ranking scientist among a band of doubters who, beginning in the early 1990s, resolutely disputed suggestions that global warming was serious threat.[30] Seitz argued that the science behind global warming was inconclusive and "certainly didn't warrant imposing mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions".[30] In 2001 Seitz and Jastrow questioned whether global warming is anthropogenic.[31]

Seitz signed the 1995 Leipzig Declaration and, in an open letter inviting scientists to sign the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine's global warming petition, called for the United States to reject the Kyoto Protocol.[7] The letter was accompanied by a 12-page article on climate change which followed a style and format nearly identical to that of a contribution to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a scientific journal,[32] even including a date of publication ("October 26") and volume number ("Vol. 13: 149–164 1999"), but was not actually a publication of the National Academy of Science (NAS). In response the United States National Academy of Sciences took what the New York Times called "the extraordinary step of refuting the position of one [of] its former presidents."[7][33][34] The NAS also made it clear that "The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy."[33]

Seitz worked extensively with Fred Singer during his consultancy career for tobacco and oil corporations in matters of health and climate change, respectively.[35]



Seitz wrote a range of scientific books in his field, including The Modern Theory of Solids (1940) and The Physics of Metals (1943). Later he co-authored books such as the Theory of Lattice Dynamics in the Harmonic Approximation (1971) and Solid State Physics.[36] The latter, begun in 1955, with David Turnbull, reached 60 volumes by 2008, with Seitz remaining an active editor until volume 38 in 1984.[1] Solid State Physics continues to be published by Elsevier.[37] After his retirement he co-authored a book on global warming, published via the George C. Marshall Institute he chaired. He published his autobiography in 1994. Other works included biographies of American physicist Francis Wheeler Loomis (1991) and Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden (1999), a history of silicon, and a history of the US National Academy of Sciences (2007).



In the early 1970s, Seitz became unpopular for his support of the Vietnam war, a position which most of his colleagues on the President's Science Advisory Committee did not share. In the late 1970s, Seitz also parted company with his scientific colleagues on questions of nuclear preparedness. Seitz was committed to "a muscular military strengthened by the most technologically advanced weaponry", while the scientific community generally supported arms limitations talks and treaties. Seitz was also ardently anti-communist and his support for aggressive weapons programs was a reflection of this.[35]

In their book Merchants of Doubt, science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway state that Seitz and a group of other scientists fought the scientific evidence and spread confusion on many of the most important issues of our time like harmfulness of tobacco smoke, acid rains, CFCs, pesticides and global warming. Seitz said that American science had become "rigid", and his colleagues had become closed-minded and dogmatic. According to Oreskes and Conway, Seitz used normal uncertainties of scientific evidence to spread doubt about the harmfulness of tobacco smoke.[35]

Seitz was also a principal organizer of the infamous Oregon Petition, where numerous signatories claimed that there was no evidence that greenhouse gases were responsible for global warming. Despite Seitz being a past President of the US National Academy of Sciences, the NAS issued a press release stating "The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science.".[38] Journalists subsequently found that the identities of the vast majority of signatories could not be verified,[39] because the petition's organizers had no process for identity authentication. Further, the supposed scientific article that claimed to refute global warming (and which accompanied the petition) was in fact a non-peer reviewed article from the "Journal of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons", which was published by Arthur Robinson, the petition's co-organizer.[40] This journal advocates scientifically discredited viewpoints such as claiming that there is no connection between the HIV virus and AIDS, and is not indexed in PubMed.

Oreskes and Conway were critical of Seitz's involvement in the tobacco industry. They stated that Seitz stood against the scientific consensus that smoking was dangerous to people's health, and helped to create confusion and doubt on this issue.

Awards and recognition


Seitz was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1946.[41] He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1952, serving as its President from 1962 to 1969.[10] He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1962.[42] He received the Franklin Medal (1965). In 1973 he was awarded the National Medal of Science "for his contributions to the modern quantum theory of the solid state of matter."[7] He also received the United States Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Public Service Award; and the Compton Award, the highest honor of the American Institute of Physics.[7] In addition to Rockefeller University, 31 universities in the US and abroad awarded Seitz honorary degrees.[43] He was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[43]

Seitz served on a range of boards of charitable institutions, including (as chair) John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1976–1983[13]) and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation,[5] and (as trustee) American Museum of Natural History (from 1975[13]) and Institute of International Education.[5] He was also a board member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.[5] Other appointments to a range of national and international agencies included serving on the Defense Science Board and serving as chair of the US delegation to the United Nations Committee on Science and Technology.[5] He also served on the board of trustees of Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 1971 to 1974.

In 1981, Seitz became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[44]

Positions held



Private sector


  • Frederick Seitz, A matrix-algebraic development of the crystallographic groups, Princeton University, 1934
  • Frederick Seitz, The modern theory of solids, McGraw-Hill, 1940
  • Frederick Seitz, The physics of metals, McGraw-Hill, 1943
  • Robert Jastrow, William Aaron Nierenberg, Frederick Seitz, Global warming: what does the science tell us?, George C. Marshall Institute, 1990
  • Robert Jastrow, William Aaron Nierenberg, Frederick Seitz, Scientific perspectives on the greenhouse problem, Marshall Press, 1990
  • Frederick Seitz, Francis Wheeler Loomis: August 4, 1889 – February 9, 1976, National Academy Press, 1991
  • Frederick Seitz (1994). On the Frontier, My Life in Science. American Institute of Physics. ISBN 9781563961977. OCLC 231640410.
  • Nikolaus Riehl and Frederick Seitz, Stalin's Captive: Nikolaus Riehl and the Soviet Race for the Bomb (American Chemical Society and the Chemical Heritage Foundations, 1996) ISBN 0-8412-3310-1.
This book is a translation of Nikolaus Riehl's book Zehn Jahre im goldenen Käfig (Ten Years in a Golden Cage) (Riederer-Verlag, 1988); but Seitz wrote a lengthy introduction. It contains 58 photographs.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n E. Goldwasser; A.V. Granato; R.O. Simmons (2008). "Frederick Seitz". Physics Today. 61 (7): 66–67. Bibcode:2008PhT....61g..66G. doi:10.1063/1.2963019.
  2. ^ "The 1950s in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign".[dead link]
  3. ^ "The Marshall Institute – Founders". Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  4. ^ Slichter, Charles P. (2010). "Frederick Seitz 1911–2008" (PDF). Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences: 4.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Rockefeller University, Biography of Frederick Seitz Archived 2007-03-13 at the Wayback Machine, November 1985
  6. ^ Current biography yearbook, Volume 17, H.W. Wilson Company, 1957. p564
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l D. Hevesi (2008-03-06). "Frederick Seitz, 96, Dies; Physicist Who Led Skeptics of Global Warming". The New York Times. p. C12.
  8. ^ J.L. Bast. "Report #2 from the Global Warming Conference in New York City". Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
  9. ^ Seitz, Frederick (1934). A matrix-algebraic development of the crystallographic groups (Ph.D.). Princeton University. OCLC 82947413 – via ProQuest.
  10. ^ a b c United States National Academy of Sciences, 7 March 2008, Past NAS President Frederick Seitz Dies at 96 Archived 2010-05-25 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Frederick Seitz, Norman G. Einspruch, Electronic genie: the tangled history of silicon. University of Illinois Press, 1998. pp128-9
  12. ^ Seitz, Frederick (26 January 1981). "Oral history interview transcript with Frederick Seitz" (Interview). Interviewed by Lillian Hoddeson and Paul Henriksen. College Park, Maryland, USA: American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
  13. ^ a b c d The International Who's Who 2004, Europa Publications
  14. ^ Stokes, Colin. "RJR'S Support of Biomedical Research". Tobacco Documents. Archived from the original on 2008-03-10.
  15. ^ Frederick Seitz, 29 May 1979 Presentation to International Advisory Committee of RJ Reynolds Archived 2011-06-15 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Mark Hertsgaard (May 2006). "While Washington Slept". Vanity Fair.
  17. ^ Dunlap, Riley E.; McCright, Aaron M. (2011). "Climate change denial: sources, actors, and strategies". In Lever-Tracy, Constance (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Taylor & Francis. p. 251. ISBN 9780203876213.
  18. ^ "Letter from Alexander Holtzman to Bill Murray". 31 August 1989. Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  19. ^ "The Marshall Institute – Remembering Frederick Seitz". The Marshall Institute. 2008-03-04. Archived from the original on 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  20. ^ a b The Independent Institute, Research Fellow: Frederick Seitz. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  21. ^ a b George C. Marshall Institute, "Untitled". Archived from the original on December 14, 2001. Retrieved 2001-12-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  22. ^ a b Seitz, Frederick (April 3, 2006). "Interviews: Frederick Seitz" (Interview). WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  23. ^ Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, 10 August 2010, "Distorting Science While Invoking Science Archived 2010-09-19 at the Wayback Machine", Science Progress
  24. ^ Daily Telegraph, 14 March 2008, Frederick Seitz
  25. ^ The Institute was described as a "central cog in the denial machine" in a Newsweek cover story on global warming. – Begley, Sharon (August 13, 2007). "The Truth About Denial". Newsweek. Retrieved October 17, 2007.
  26. ^ George E. Marcus, Paranoia within reason: a casebook on conspiracy as explanation, University of Chicago Press, 1999. p.117
  27. ^ "A Conversation with Dr. Frederick Seitz". The George C. Marshall Institute. September 3, 1997. Archived from the original on 2010-07-06.
  28. ^ Hirschhorn, Norbert; Aguinaga Bialous, Stella (2001). "Second hand smoke and risk assessment: what was in it for the tobacco industry?". Tobacco Control. 10 (4): 375–382. doi:10.1136/tc.10.4.375. PMC 1747615. PMID 11740031.
  29. ^ According to Merchants of Doubt, Seitz was a central climate change denial figure.
  30. ^ a b Hertsgaard, Mark (May 2006). While Washington Slept Vanity Fair.
  31. ^ Seitz, Frederick; Jastrow, Robert (1 December 2001). "Do people cause global warming?". The Heartland Institute. Archived from the original on 2010-10-30. Retrieved 2004-08-21.
  32. ^ Arthur B. Robinson; Sallie L. Baliunas; Willie Soon; Zachary W. Robinson (January 1998). "Environmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide". OISM and the George C. Marshall Institute. Archived from the original on 2007-01-14. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  33. ^ a b "Statement by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences regarding Global Change Petition" (Press release). National Academy of Sciences. April 20, 1998. Retrieved 2018-12-23. The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal.
  34. ^ David Malakoff (10 April 1998). "Climate change: Advocacy mailing draws fire". Science. 280 (5361): 195. Bibcode:1998Sci...280Q.195.. doi:10.1126/science.280.5361.195a. S2CID 152855137.
  35. ^ a b c Oreskes, Naomi and Conway, Erik M. (2010). Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Bloomsbury, pp. 25–29.
  36. ^ Frederick Seitz; David Turnbull (1955). Solid State Physics: Advances in Research and Applications. Vol. 1. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-08-086465-5. OCLC 646775088.
  37. ^ "Book Series: Solid State Physics". Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  38. ^ "Statement by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences Regarding Global Change Petition". US National Academy of Sciences. April 20, 1998. Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  39. ^ Brown, Joe. 700 Club anchor touted global warming skeptics' petition reportedly signed by non-scientists, fictitious characters. Media Matters, 14th Feb 2006.
  40. ^ Grandia, Kevin (August 22, 2009). "The 30,000 Global Warming Petition Is Easily-Debunked Propaganda". The Huffington Post. Updated December 6, 2017.
  41. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  42. ^ "Frederick Seitz". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 9 February 2023. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  43. ^ a b Rockefeller University, 4 March 2008, Frederick Seitz – Lounsberry director and past president – dies at 96. Archived 2011-05-20 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ "About Us". World Cultural Council. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  45. ^ "Saxonburg Cyclotron 50th Reunion". Archived from the original on 2007-10-20.
  46. ^ "Physica Status Solidi: Meet the Board Members". Archived from the original on 2013-01-05.
  47. ^ "Richard Lounsbery Foundation".
  48. ^ Frederick Seitz, chairman of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, at the 1998 Global Assembly of the World Academy of Art and Sciences, Vancouver BC, Canada
  49. ^ "Remembering Frederick Seitz, 1911–2008". Lounsbery Foundation. 4 March 2008. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  50. ^ Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) Board of Directors Archived 2006-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 19 Sep 2010
  51. ^ New York Times, 26 April 1998, Industrial Group Plans to Battle Climate Treaty.

Further reading

  • Chiroleu‐Assouline, Mireille, and Thomas P. Lyon. "Merchants of doubt: Corporate political action when NGO credibility is uncertain." Journal of Economics & Management Strategy 29.2 (2020): 439-461. online
  • De la Cruz Arboleda, Camilo Andrés. "Climate Change in the Era of Post-Truth." Ecology Law Quarterly 45.2 (2018): 419-426. online
  • Dunlap, Riley E., and Aaron M. McCright. "Climate change denial: sources, actors and strategies." in Routledge handbook of climate change and society (2010): 240–259. online Archived 2024-02-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  • Mann, Michael E. The new climate war: The fight to take back our planet (PublicAffairs, 2021) [1].
  • Oreskes, Naomi, and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of doubt: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming (Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2011).
  • Pinto, Manuela Fernandez. "To know or better not to: Agnotology and the social construction of ignorance in commercially driven research." Science & Technology Studies 30.2 (2017): 53-72. [2]
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by President of the National Academy of Sciences
1962 – 1969
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by President of the Rockefeller University
1968 – 1978
Succeeded by