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Franklin A. Long dies at 88; was Cornell professor and controversial figure in Nixon era

Franklin A. Long, professor emeritus of chemistry at Cornell University and the university's vice president for research and advanced studies from 1963 to 1969, died in Pomona, Calif., Monday, Feb. 8. He was 88.

Long achieved national prominence in 1969 when he was nominated as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). But the appointment was blocked by President Richard Nixon because of Long's stated opposition to the antiballistic missile system (ABM), then a highly controversial element of U.S. nuclear defense strategy.

Recalling the incident, Judith Reppy, a professor in Cornell's Department of Science and Technology Studies and associate director of the university's Peace Studies Program, says that "Frank stood for scientific sanity."

Reppy explains that Long believed that the ABM, because of its declared ability to destroy incoming Soviet missiles, threatened the doctrine of what was then called "a stable nuclear deterrent," the idea that stable deterrence depended on a secure second-strike capability on both sides. She says, "Frank took a strong stand against the ABM on the grounds that it would not work. But beyond that concern, he believed it would be a bad idea because it would destabilize the nuclear standoff between the superpowers."

At the time of Long's conflict with the Nixon administration, he had behind him a long career as a Cornell faculty member and administrator and as a U.S. government science adviser. He was a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee, serving under presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.

In 1968, writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, he had criticized the government's development of the ABM system on the grounds that it would generate "strong pressure toward acceleration of the arms race."

Thus when Long's name was put forward as the next director of the NSF, the ground was prepared for a conflict with the administration. Long recalled at the time that he went to Washington for an appointment with Nixon and there learned from presidential science adviser Lee A. DuBridge that "the situation had changed and that new elements of a political nature relating to the antiballistic missile system had arisen."

Following the administration's blocking of Long's appointment, many distinguished scientists came to his support. In a letter to The New York Times, two Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty members, biologist S.E. Luria and physicist V.F. Weisskopf, communicated their alarm over "the implication that the Government desires scientific advice only from men who agree with the policies of the Government. Science deals with truths, often unpleasant truths. In a world where the destinies of men and nations are forged by science and technology, a nation that puts only yes-men in its science councils might well court intellectual decay, technological paralysis and ultimate catastrophe."

Nixon later relented and offered Long the NSF directorship. But Long rejected the offer.

Long was born in Great Falls, Mont., July 27, 1910, and earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees at the University of Montana. He earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley, where he also served as an instructor in chemistry from 1935 to 1936. After a year as an instructor at the University of Chicago, he came to Cornell as a professor of chemistry in 1937, a post he held until 1979, serving as chair of the chemistry department between 1950 and 1960. He became professor emeritus of chemistry in 1979. He also was a faculty trustee on the Cornell Board of Trustees from 1956 to 1957.

His deep concern for the issues of scientific responsibility and his opposition to the arms race were evident in both his academic and professional appointments. In 1969 he began a four-year tenure as director of a new Cornell academic and research program, Science, Technology and Society, designed to study the impact of science and technology on the problems facing U.S. society. Between 1969 and 1979 he held the Cornell post of Henry R. Luce Professor of Science and Society, and between 1976 and 1979 he was director of the Peace Studies Program. He also served on the boards of the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists, the Albert Einstein Peace Prize Foundation and the Fund for Peace. He also was active in the international Pugwash movement.

His government service began in 1942, when he worked as an explosives supervisor for the National Defense Research Committee. He later became a ballistics consultant for the U.S. Army, the chairman of the Chemistry Advisory Committee for the U.S. Air Force and a member of the Air Force's Science Advisory Board. Between 1962 and 1963 he was assistant director for science and technology of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, for which he also served as a consultant between 1977 and 1979.

In 1948 he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Merit, and in 1975 he received the Order of Civil Merit and the Dongbaeg Medal from the president of the Republic of Korea for his contributions to the development of science and technology in South Korea. He also served on the Indo-U.S. Subcommission on Education and Culture and counted many Indian scientists among his friends.

In 1989 he was awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science Philip Hauge Ableson Prize for his contributions to basic research and science policy, including international security, arms control and Third World development.

Long's wife, Marion, died in 1992. He is survived by a son, Franklin, a chemist, of Claremont, Calif., and a daughter, Elizabeth, a professor of sociology at Rice University.

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