John Holdren life and biography

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John Holdren biography

Date of birth : 1944-03-01
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Sewickley, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-06-25
Credited as : Office of Science and Technology Policy, co-chair of the PCAST, Obama administration

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John P. Holdren, born March 01, 1944 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania is an American physycist. John P. Holdren is advisor to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

John P. Holdren,/b> is a professor at Harvard University who is widely recognized for his work relating to environmental issues, energy technology and policy, and international security, particularly as it relates to nuclear weapons. He has explored and reported extensively on the areas of global climate change and the protection and disposal of materials used to make nuclear bombs. Holdren was awarded the 2000 Tyler Prize in honor of his work to bring environmental problems to the attention of people around the world, and to convince international leaders to look for effective solutions to these problems. The Tyler Award is an international award that honors important achievements in environmental science, energy, and medical discoveries that impact upon human existence and quality of life.

Holdren also has been widely recognized for his efforts relating to the Pugwash Conferences on Sciences and World Affairs. Pugwash is an international group of scholars and public figures who work toward the reduction and ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons, and to find solutions to international problems other than war. Holdren was chosen by other members of the organization to present the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, which Pugwash won in 1995.

Holdren was born in 1946 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, but spent most of his childhood and youth in San Mateo, California. He returned east to pursue his interest in science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautics in 1965 and a master's degree in astronautics in 1966. He earned his Ph.D. in aeronautics/astronautics and theoretical plasma physics from Stanford University in 1970.

Beginning a Distinguished Career

Between 1970 and 1973, Holdren worked on missile technology for the Lockheed Corporation, and as a plasma physicist at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California. He also served as a senior research fellow in the Environmental Quality Laboratory and the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. In 1973 he joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley, where he remained for 23 years. While at Berkeley, Holdren cofounded a campus-wide interdisciplinary graduate program in energy resources. He codirected the program, which has produced many of the current leaders in the areas of energy, environment, development, and international security, until he left Berkeley in 1996. The program Holdren helped to establish and direct is credited with pioneering methods of interdisciplinary education that shaped the studies of the current generation of scientists. It's widely acknowledged that the program benefited these scientists, who face increasingly complex issues concerning the environmental and international relations. Holdren also served as chairman of Graduate Advisors when he was at Berkeley.

Concerned about the dangers of potential nuclear conflict, Holdren became involved in the early 1970s in international efforts to reduce the threat of conflict. In 1973 he began participating in the Pugwash Conferences, serving as chairman of the organization's executive committee from 1987 to 1997, and formally accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for Pugwash in 1995. The organization, named for the location of its first meeting in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, was founded in 1957. It was formed in response to a Manifesto issued in 1995 by Albert Einstein; and Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher and renowned advocate for peace. The Manifesto called upon scientists from all political walks to meet to discuss the dangers that nuclear weapons posed to civilization at that time. Twenty-two well-known and highly respected scientists from the United States, the former Soviet Union, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Austria, China, France, and Poland attended the first meeting. Nearly 40 years later, the organization shared the Nobel Prize with Joseph Rotblat, who founded Pugwash and served as its first president. Holdren also was recognized for his commitment to peace, and his efforts to promote peace among the world's leaders through energy management, with the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Prize in 1981.

In addition to his work with Pugwash, Holdren participated in a Quest for Peace video series in 1984, in which he warned of the inconceivably devastating effects of the use of nuclear weapons, and the dangers of continuing the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

"We are on a path toward deploying, for the first time on our nuclear missile submarines, a new generation of missiles so accurate that they will be able to attack with very short warning, the most hardened missile silos of the other side," Holdren was quoted as saying during the video series. "We are proposing, starting in the late 1980s, to deploy these things by the thousands on U.S. submarines. Once again, the Soviet Union will be sure to follow. Once the Soviet Union and the United States both have thousands of highly accurate missiles on their submarines, both sides will be convinced that a new 'window of vulnerability' has been opened, because those submarines will permit either side to attack simultaneously both the bomber bases and the land-based intercontinental ballistic missile silos simultaneously, and with devastating effect."

Holdren and the Environment

In addition to his concerns about nuclear proliferation and policy, Holdren has over the years demonstrated an enduring interest in environmental and social problems. In his 1995 Nobel address, Holdren said that international security, economic development, and environmental issues are all closely related. We cannot expect lasting peace in a world in which many of its people are poor and discontented, he said. And, durable peace also is dependent on a healthy environment, which Holdren said is being continually eroded. If the world's environment cannot sustain its people, he said, we should not expect to see stability in international security.

In 1997, Holdren and several other well-known scientists released a statement called the Scientists' Statement on Global Climatic Disruptions. The statement addressed the issue of global climate change, and called for a decisive and quick policy response from world governments. Holdren called global climate change caused by human behavior, and especially fossil fuel combustion, "the most dangerous and the most intractable environmental problem that civilization faces."

Leaving Berkeley After 23 Years

Holdren remained at Berkeley until 1996, when he accepted a position at Harvard University. He was named the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environment Policy, and director of the program in science, technology, and public policy in the university's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also teaches environmental science and public policy in the school's department of earth and planetary sciences. He was named professor emeritus of energy and resources at Berkeley, and was a distinguished visiting scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts from 1994 until 2005, when he took over as director of the facility. He has served as a member of the board of directors of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In addition to his duties at Harvard, Holdren served as a member of President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)from 1994 until 2001. As part of PCAST, Holdren guided U.S.-Russian cooperative efforts to protect nuclear materials. He's also led research for the United States on fusion energy, and helped develop strategy to address the global climate change problem. Holdren is credited with leading the committee in its efforts to establish international cooperation in energy technology. He was chairman of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the National Academy of Sciences from 1993 until 2004, as well as the National Research Council's committee on U.S.-India Cooperation on Energy.

Holdren is the author of about 300 articles and reports on topics varying from the impact of population growth, to fusion energy technology, to plasma physics. He wrote 14 books between 1971 and 1997, dealing with topics such as human ecology, energy, the arms race, and global security. In addition to the Tyler Prize, Holdren has received such honors as the Kaul Foundation Award (1999) and the Heinz Prize in Public Policy (2001), as well as several honorary degrees. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. From 2005 until 2008, he served as president-elect, president, and chairman of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is married to Dr. Cheryl E. Holdren, a biologist, and has two grown children and a grandchild. He lives in Falmouth and Cambridge, Massachusetts.


* The Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, 1997.
* Management and Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium, 2 volumes, 1994 and 1995.
* Building Global Security Through Cooperation, 1990.
* Strategic Defences and the Future of the Arms Race, 1987.
* Earth and the Human Future, 1986.
* Energy in Transition, 1980.
* Ecoscience, 1977.
* Human Ecology, 1973.
* Energy, 1971.

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