Before his dramatic resignation from the American Physical Society on October 6, 2010 over the society position on global warming (the text of his letter is available and the APS reply and WUWT discussion is available ), Dr. Harold Lewis would not have been described as one of the rock stars of science. Few people outside of the worlds of physics and government had ever heard of him, yet his was a career of quiet but substantive accomplishment. His biographical blurb on the website of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which he joined in October of 2010, is a good summary of his career:
Though not a household name, Dr. Lewis, one of the last of the great Robert Oppenheimer’s students and with whom he co-authored several papers, was considered one of the best physicists of his time and was well regarded in the physics community. He was a founding member of the JASON Defense Advisory Group and its chairman from 1966 to 1973, an association that did create controversy during the Vietnam conflict.
JASON took up a great deal of his time and effort and is discussed extensively in the transcript of an oral history interview he gave in 1986 for the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. Among other things, the transcript makes clear his position that the role of Scientific Advisory Groups was to advise on things that scientists thought government should pay attention to, rather than advising in the things that government was actually paying attention to. It also documents an ongoing struggle to maintain autonomy from government agencies, with the JASON group engaging in projects of their own choosing, doing basic research while at the same time providing solutions to important needs.
He made a point of the fact that JASON provided a good return on a fairly small government investment. It certainly provides context for his assertions that floods of government money have corrupted science and the APS in particular.
On behalf of all our readers, contributors and authors, our condolences go out to his wife, Mary, and their family.
Note from Anthony: Regular WUWT reader (and now contributor) Robert Phelancompiled this obituary, and it was he who alerted me to the news. From what I know of him, Hal Lewis was a quiet man, not only in life, but also in death. Robert Phelan writes in his email to me about how little information there is, which is why it has taken so long for it to be reported here:
Given how private and quiet Dr. Lewis was, it underscores how extraordinary his resignation from AIP was. I thank him for his courage to do what must have been the most painful professional act of his life.