John Holdren Photo
Teresa and John Heinz Research Professor of Environmental Policy

DR. JOHN P. HOLDREN is Research Professor in Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and Co-Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program in the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.  He retired at the end of June 2021 from his roles as the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School and Professor of Environmental Science and Policy in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, which he also held from 1996 through 2008, and from his role as Affiliated Professor in the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science, which he assumed in 2017.  He is also President Emeritus and Senior Advisor to the President at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, a pre-eminent, independent, environmental-research organization.

From January 2009 to January 2017, Dr. Holdren was President Obama’s Science Advisor and Senate-confirmed Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), becoming the longest-serving Science Advisor to the President in the history of the position.  His responsibilities in his White House role included advising the President on all science and technology (S&T) issues bearing on the national agenda, including the role of S&T in the economy, public health, energy and climate change, the oceans and the Arctic, the Nation’s space program, and national & homeland security.  He was also responsible for coordinating R&D strategy & budgets across the Executive Branch; overseeing interagency S&T programs, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program; developing initiatives in STEM education; advancing scientific integrity and openness in government; and representing the U.S. government in interactions with the U.S. and global science and engineering communities.

Dr. Holdren earned S.B. (1965) and S.M. (1966) degrees from M.I.T. in aeronautics and astronautics and a Ph.D. (1970) from Stanford in aero/astro and theoretical plasma physics.  Before joining Harvard, he held campus-wide appointments at the University of California, Berkeley, as Assistant Professor (1973-75), Associate Professor (1975-78), and Professor of Energy and Resources (1978-96), co-founding in 1973 and co-leading until 1996 the interdisciplinary graduate-degree program in energy and resources (the Energy and Resources Group).  Prior to that he was a theoretical physicist in the Theory Group of the Magnetic Fusion Energy Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1970-72) and a Senior Research Fellow at Caltech in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Caltech Environmental Quality Laboratory (1972-73). He served from 1991 to 2005 as a member of the Board of Trustees of the MacArthur Foundation and from 1994 to 2005 as Chairman of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Sciences.  During the Clinton Administration, he served for both terms on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, leading multiple studies for President Clinton on energy-technology innovation and nuclear arms control.

Dr. Holdren is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and the Council on Foreign Relations.  He is also a foreign member of both the Royal Society of London and the Indian National Academy of Engineering and a former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  His other honors include one of the first MacArthur Prize Fellowships (1981), the Volvo International Environment Prize (1993), the Tyler Prize for Environment (2000), the Heinz Prize for Public Policy (2001), the Gwangha Medal of the Republic of Korea (2017), the Moynihan Prize of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (2018), the Order of the Rising Sun from the government of Japan (2019), the Arthur Bueche Award of the National Academy of Engineering (2021), and seven honorary doctorates.  In 1995 he gave the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization of scientists and public figures in which he served in leadership positions from 1982 to 1997.

Dr. Holdren has been married since 1966 to Dr. Cheryl E. Holdren, a biologist.  They have a son, a daughter, and five grandchildren. John and Cheryl live on Cape Cod.

Academic Journal/Scholarly Articles

Research Papers/Reports


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Harvard Kennedy School is proud of its energetic involvement in the world. To better understand how to solve public problems by improving policy and leadership, we engage directly with policymakers, public leaders, governments, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses whose activities affect those problems. However, we recognize that such engagement can raise questions about perceived and potential conflicts of interest, so we disclose publicly the key professional activities of our faculty outside the Kennedy School. The activities disclosed below are for the most recent reporting period, as defined by University policy. Some may be paid, some may be unpaid, and others may be in exchange for expense reimbursement only.

Outside Professional Activities For John Holdren

Organization Relationship
Federation of American Scientists Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
National Academy of Medicine Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
Nuclear Threat Initiative Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
Tsinghua University Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
Tufts University Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
U.S. National Academy of Sciences Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
University of Michigan Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
Woodwell Climate Research Center Membership on a scientific or other advisory board
Woodwell Climate Research Center Research or teaching appointment


Environment & Energy
Science, Technology & Data
International Relations & Security

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