News: News Archives
In Memoriam: AAAS Celebrates William T. Golden
William T. Golden
AAAS Treasurer Emeritus, principal benefactor and headquarters namesake William T. Golden, a pivotal figure in the history of American science policy, died Sunday, 7 October 2007, at the age of 97.
He is survived by his wife, Catherine Morrison, and by Sibyl Rebecca Golden and Pamela Prudence Golden, his beloved daughters with his first wife, the late Sibyl Levy.
"Bill was a unique figure in the history of science and technology policy and the science-and-society intersection more broadly," said AAAS Chairman John P. Holdren, who also serves as director of The Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard University. "He was a pioneering and key player, a shrewd observer, a valued mentor, and an unbelievably generous benefactor. He was also, as all who knew him will attest, a wonderfully warm and witty human being. He will be hugely missed."
AAAS President David Baltimore, the President Emeritus and Robert Andrew Millikan Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, described Golden as "a man who understood uniquely well the importance and relevance of science to the decisions of a civil society." For many years, Baltimore added, "Bill Golden was a supporter of science and a translator of science into the public arena who used his personal resources thoughtfully and imaginatively to support AAAS and science in general. He will be missed personally, and by the world."
Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science said: "Bill Golden was a true citizen of science and for science, throughout the world. He was a wonderful friend and colleague to many of us, and we will feel the loss greatly. He was a particularly loyal friend and supporter of AAAS, where his insights and advice provided significant benefits for an array of programs over many years."
One such program, the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships, took flight in 1973 after Golden offered to "buy the first tank of gas." The highly regarded, gold-standard program now serves some 150 fellows each year, encompassing a network of more than 2,000 scientists and engineers who have served in policy-related positions within federal agencies, congressional offices and committees, and scientific societies.
Golden served as treasurer of the AAAS Board of Directors from 1969 until 1999, and as treasurer emeritus until his death. As a surprise tribute recognizing his many contributions, the AAAS Board of Directors in 1995 named a new headquarters building as the William T. Golden Center for Science and Engineering.
He noted that "good ideas are contagious," and his lifelong desire to stimulate innovation motivated his historic $5.25 million gift to AAAS on 14 February 2003. It was the most generous contribution ever bestowed upon the world's largest general science society since its inception in 1848.
Today, the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation encourages AAAS staff to pursue in-house seed grants for new initiatives not supported by the general budget.
His ongoing legacy at AAAS now encompasses an array of high-impact new programs. For example, the Golden-inspired AAAS Leadership Seminar in Science and Technology Policy, a "crash course" in science and technology policy, is now fully self-sustaining. Another Golden-legacy program provides Fellowships for Reporters from Developing Regions, and the AAAS International Office is working to provide free Science content on a portable USB flash drive to scientists at universities and research institutions in some of Africa's least-developed regions. An instructional guide to promote science-education reform also is underway, and the EurekAlert! Web site on 1 October 2007 unveiled a Chinese-language version of its popular news service for reporters.
Over the course of his lengthy career, Golden played a key role in establishing the U.S. National Science Foundation, and he had the ear of many U.S. presidents. In 1957, President Harry S. Truman fully implemented Golden's proposal to establish a Science Adviser to the President and a President's Science Advisory Committee.
Norman Neureiter, director of the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy, said Golden was a force behind the establishment of the the office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State in 2000; Neureiter was the first to serve in that post. "Bill never interfered, but found ways to assist the adviser in ways that contributed greatly to the effectiveness of the office," Neureiter said. "He was an unflagging source of encouragement and counsel. His passing is a tremendous loss to the science and science policy communities."
John Gibbons, former President Bill Clinton's science adviser, described Golden as "a hero," adding that "without people like him, there would be no infrastructure, no research."
In 2001, a lengthy New York Times profile detailed Golden's 50-year influence on U.S. science policy, noting that he was "the man who knows everybody, the one behind the scenes using money and persuasion to shape the institutions that govern American science." A year later, the trend-setting magazine Seed reported that "the man who put a science adviser in the White House is still very much in the loop."
Watch the video tribute to Mr. Golden
A video tribute, developed by AAAS for a 2005 birthday celebration in his honor, features images of Golden with luminaries ranging from Presidents Clinton and Bush, to Vice President Al Gore, to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to the Dalai Lama and actor Richard Gere. "He has seemed a bit like the Woody Allen character Zelig, who appears mysteriously in photographs taken at just about every momentous turn of history," New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin said of Golden.
When Bill retired as Treasurer, the reason he gave was simply that he felt it would be 'unseemly' for the AAAS to have a 90-year-old Treasurer," said David Shaw, a AAAS board member who succeeded Golden in this role in 1999. "Had he not done so, he would have continued as an extraordinary Treasurer well into his 97th year." Commenting more generally on Golden's legacy, Shaw said "I sincerely believe that no one human being has contributed as much as Bill to U.S. science and technology policy, both directly and indirectly, over the many decades during which he guided the very development of this essential discipline. He was both a respected mentor and a beloved friend to a great many of us, and I, like many others, will miss him deeply.
On a personal level, Beth Rosner, publisher of Science, offered comments that were echoed by many AAAS staff members who knew Golden. "He was very kind and supportive of all my efforts on behalf of AAAS," Rosner said. "He was a brilliant businessman and an impeccable gentleman. When you dined with Bill, you learned that he knew everyone. You couldn't take a bite without being interrupted by someone else wanting to say hello to Bill. Yet, he remembered everyone's name."
Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS said: "AAAS has lost a champion. Bill Golden considered himself a `talent-spotter,' and once you were in his line of sight, he made opportunities available to help you contribute, to broaden your platform and to widen your networks. He was known for his sharp wit and incisive comments, and he was the consummate statesperson for science."
Born 25 October 1909 in New York City, Golden in 2005 recalled how his four Lithuanian grandparents had arrived in America "penniless, without a word of English, in the steerages of rusty freighters." He grew up in Manhattan's Washington Heights community, the son of a small businessman in the woolen textile industry.
By 1922, he said, he had been "hooked since early childhood on all things mechanical, electrical, and chemical." The call letters for his first ham radio license, at age 13, were 2AEN.
In 1930, Mr. Golden received a bachelor's degree in English and biology from the University of Pennsylvania; he then attended the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, leaving after one year to accept a job on Wall Street as a securities analyst at a salary of $25 per week. "The idea was to make a lot of money on Wall Street and then do interesting things and useful things," he later explained.
William T. Golden with his daughters
Mr. Golden married childhood acquaintance Sibyl Levy in 1938, and they soon welcomed two daughters, Sibyl and Pamela.
Beginning before Pearl Harbor, as an active duty officer in the U.S. Navy throughout World War II, Golden invented a new firing device for anti-aircraft machine guns. Soon after the war, he served in the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission for three years, from its first day in 1946, as assistant to one of the commissioners—a position that put him in touch with the national scientific community. He then served at various points in ad hoc roles within the federal government, including the Department of State and the Second Hoover Commission, and within New York State and City organizations.
On 19 October 1950, President Truman authorized Golden to undertake a study of the organization and conduct of scientific research and development activities in the government. At one point during that era, Golden served as special assistant to President Truman after the outbreak of the Korean War, providing advice on the organization of the government's scientific activities.
In 1957 Truman adopted Golden's recommendation to create the role of a presidential science adviser. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) persists to this day, despite a brief extinction under President Richard Nixon.
Golden meanwhile continued to succeed in business, too. He was chairman of the board of the National-U.S. Radiator Corp. on 9 October 1956 when the organization first began trading at the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1979, at age 70, Golden received a Master's degree in biological sciences from Columbia University. He also held honorary doctorates from Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Polytechnic University of New York, Hamilton College, and Bard College.
Golden served as co-chairman of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government, with Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg. Until his death, he remained the only private citizen to attend meetings of the Carnegie Group, his brainchild for bringing together science ministers of G-8 countries and the European Union.
In addition to his AAAS contributions, Golden served as co-chairman of the American Trust for the British Library; chairman emeritus for the American Museum of Natural History; governor of the New York Academy of Sciences; trustee of the Carnegie Institute of Washington; trustee of the Mount Sinai Medical Center, Hospital, and Medical School; and director of the General American Investors Co.
His numerous honors and activities included the Distinguished Public Service Award from the National Science Foundation in 1982; a Tribute of Appreciation from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1991; the Benjamin Franklin Award for Distinguished Public Service from the American Philosophical Society in 1995; the Public Welfare Medal from NAS in 1996; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from AAAS. He also received the First Scholar Patriot Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.
Mr. Golden, President Clinton, and former AAAS President Jane Lubchenco
Golden was co-author and editor of numerous publications, including: Science and Technology Advice to the President, Congress, and Judiciary; Science Advice to the President; Impacts of the Early Cold War on the Formulation of U.S. Science Policy; and Worldwide Science and Technology Advice.
His extraordinary philanthropy included helping to found the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. And when Harvard planned to sell an expanse of the Black Rock Forest in the Hudson Highlands north of New York City to a developer, Golden came up with the idea to buy the land and turn it into an environmental laboratory for students and teachers.
That act was recognized when Golden received the Russel Wright Award in 2001. "Across the Hudson, draping the hills of Cornwall, 3,600 acres of Black Rock Forest form a living tribute to his seemingly magical ability to act as a catalyst for good acts," Revkin said at the award ceremony.
Golden's vision, generosity and insights are continuing to promote special efforts throughout AAAS related to science-education reform, science policy, research competitiveness, science in developing regions and science communications.
9 October 2007