Donald F. Hornig, a scientist, former president of Brown University, and a key member of the Manhattan Project, has died at 92-years-old. The Associated Press reports that he passed away following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Hornig was a physical chemist who studied at Harvard before working on the Manhattan Project from 1944-1946. The Manhattan Project was the government program that developed the atomic bomb for use in World War II.
When asked, in a 1968 interview, about the first atomic detonation, Hornig recalled, “The minute the firing needle dropped off and I knew it had detonated, I dashed out the door in time to see the fireball rising into the sky.” He also discussed his reaction, saying, “I was awestruck, just literally awestruck. This thing was more fantastic than anything I had ever imagined.”
After the war, Hornig became a professor at Brown, before moving to Princeton. He also served as a member of the President’s Science Advisory Committee under the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations and served under the Johnson administration as a special assistant to the president.
In 1970, Hornig was brought in as president of a suffering Brown University. The school was in financial turmoil, leading Hornig to implement several programs that brought money into the school. After leaving Brown, Hornig returned to his alma mater, Harvard, to start a program focused on health and the environment. He stayed with Harvard until his retirement in 1990.
His son, Chris Hornig, said of his father, “Much of his life really was in the end about how do you apply science to solving problems?”