Image: TOM WOLFF
JOHN H. MARBURGER III:
A corner office on the fifth floor of a nondescript building a few blocks from the White House is adorned with large photographs of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on one wall and an illustration of an American flag on another. Almost nothing decorative conveys the impression that this is the office of the president's science adviser--no scale models of space shuttles, no plastic double helices. Not even a plaster bust of Einstein.
But on a small wooden table in the middle of the room sits an object that resembles a modernist sculpture--or the structural framework of a new Frank Gehry museum. Asked about the object, John H. ("Jack") Marburger III lights up. "The thing that's interesting about it is how nonintuitive the shapes are," he marvels. It is a collection of electromagnetic coils for a proposed fusion generator, and the twisted rings do not form the symmetric ovals expected in a series of coils. "No draftsman would ever come up with a design like that for an electromagnetic machine," he adds.
This article was originally published with the title Man of Two Cultures.