fbpx In appreciation of Dorothy Zinberg | Harvard Kennedy School

A message from Dean Doug Elmendorf:

I was deeply sorry to learn yesterday of the passing of Dorothy Zinberg. Dorothy had been a lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, a long-time affiliate of our Center for Public Leadership, a founding member of our Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a compelling advocate for the Kennedy School, and a beloved member of the Harvard University community for many decades.

Dorothy first came to Harvard as a research assistant and then a graduate student in biochemistry in the early 1950s. She received her PhD in the social science of medicine at Harvard in 1966 and taught in Harvard’s sociology department before becoming a lecturer in public policy and affiliating with the Belfer Center in 1978. Dorothy remained an associate of the Belfer Center and also had an office in CPL, where her next-door neighbor for a while was Larry Bacow. Larry recalled yesterday Dorothy’s deep devotion to the Kennedy School and how much he enjoyed his conversations with her.

Dorothy’s research interests during her many years at the Kennedy School focused on science and technology policy and international security studies, including the attitudes of scientists involved in nonproliferation activities, the effects of the commercialization of science, and the education and career development of scientists and engineers. She was a fierce advocate for gender equity at Harvard and beyond. In 2001 she told the Harvard Gazette that she had realized, early in her career, that she did not want to be a “brilliant man’s bright young assistant,” so she forged her own inspired academic path, publishing work in many top peer-reviewed scientific publications. She was also on the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s first committee on women’s issues.

Graham Allison, the founding dean of the modern Kennedy School and a former director of the Belfer Center, noted that “Dorothy was a pillar of the Center. …  She enlivened every occasion, had a vigorous interest in intersections between science and public policy in every arena, and had a deep commitment to our common cause.” Ash Carter, who now serves as the Belfer Center’s director, said, “In a very personal sense, her passing hits me hard. Dorothy had a great deal to do with bringing me from science to public affairs, and from MIT to Harvard and back to Harvard from Washington several times.” And David Ellwood, who was dean before me, described her yesterday as “a force of nature.” He said, “She was passionate about science and technology policy, and she was equally passionate about people. She held the most interesting and most eclectic gatherings in Cambridge. She served as a mentor to virtually every dean.”

I feel lucky to have been one of the deans whom Dorothy mentored and to have had the opportunity to talk with her on many occasions—at the School, in her house, and at School events in different cities, which she loved to attend in order to promote the School. We are a better and stronger place because of Dorothy’s commitment to our cause. I will miss her very much, as will we all.