College of Science

Physicist and politician Rush Holt to speak on science’s role in democracy


CLEMSON — Educator, scientist, executive and politician Rush D. Holt will share his unique perspective on the important role science plays in a democracy when he presents the lecture “Science and the Citizen” on September 10.

The talk, which is free and open to Clemson University faculty, staff and students, begins at 3 p.m. in the Madren Conference Center Ballroom. A reception will follow. Holt’s talk is sponsored by the College of Science. Please register at Discover Science Lecture Series.

Headshot of scientist Rush Holt
Rush Holt will present the talk, “Science and the Citizen” on Sept. 10, 2019.

According to Holt, opinion and ideology have displaced evidence in many current discussions—from public policy debates to casual conversations. “Scientific thinking is an essential tool for a successful democracy,” said Holt, the recently retired CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). “Society badly needs us to shore up and encourage evidence-based thinking.”

During his visit to Clemson University, Holt will meet with students, faculty and administrators. But he emphasized that he derives his most enjoyment from his conversations with students.

A physicist by training — he earned his Ph.D. in physics from New York University — Holt studied the atmosphere of the sun. In the 1980s, he joined the faculty at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he taught courses in physics, public policy and religion.

In 1982, he took leave from Swarthmore to serve as an AAAS/American Physical Society Science and Technology Policy Fellow on Capitol Hill, which piqued his interest in policymaking and government service.

He was the assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a Department of Energy national lab, in the mid 1990s when he set his sights on politics. In 1998, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District.

During his eight terms in the House, Holt established a long track record of advocacy for federal investment in research and development, science education and innovation.

His legislative work earned him numerous accolades, including being named one of Scientific American magazine’s “50 National Visionaries Contributing to a Brighter Technological Future” and a “Champion of Science” by the Science Coalition.

In 2015, he became the CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. In this role, he led the world’s largest multi-disciplinary scientific and engineering society.

Although he retired from AAAS this past July, Holt continues to promote the public’s engagement with science and technology through writing, speaking and serving on the advisory boards of various science organizations.

“My efforts these days involve bringing science to the public so that they have a sense of ownership of it,” Holt said.

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