David S. Saxon


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death December 8, 2005 of Honorary Member of the Corporation David S. Saxon of Los Angeles at the UCLA Medical Center after a lengthy illness. He was 85.

David S. Saxon was elected a Member of the Corporation in June 1983 and was elected an Honorary Member in June 1990. He was a Guest Associate from 1998 to 2000.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1920,  he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), receiving a B.A. degree in 1941 and a Ph.D. in 1944, both in physics. He worked at MIT’s wartime radiation laboratory, Phillips Laboratories, and as a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards before joining the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1947 as an assistant professor of theoretical nuclear physics. Three years later he was one of 31 faculty members fired for refusing to sign an oath of loyalty and declare they were not members of the Communist Party during the Red Scare of the 1950s. The California Supreme Court declared the loyalty oath requirement invalid, and he returned to UCLA in 1952.

During his long career at UCLA he served as professor and dean of physical sciences, vice chancellor and executive vice chancellor. In 1974 he was named provost of the University of California, and a year later was elected president of the University of California system, serving in that position until 1983.

David Saxon remained active at MIT as well throughout his career, joining the MIT Corporation in 1977. He was elected chairman of the corporation in 1983, serving in that post until 1990, when he was named a life member and honorary chair. In 1995 he was named a life member emeritus.  He served MIT on visiting committees for chemistry, physics and sponsored research, and was a member of the corporation’s development and membership committees.  He returned to UCLA in 1990 as a professor emeritus in physics and astronomy.

David Saxon held a number of honorary degrees, and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a member of the American Philosophical Society, American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Survivors include his wife of 65 years, Shirley; six daughters, and six grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in 2006 at UCLA. Donations in his memory may be made to the David Saxon Physics Graduate Fellowship Fund, UCLA Foundation, 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024 or to the Braille Institute, 741 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029.