Campus & Community

Harrington, professor of environmental health, 69

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Joseph Harrington, professor of environmental health engineering in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, passed away Oct. 9. He was 69 years old.

Harrington chaired what was then called the Department of Environmental Science and Physiology at HSPH from 1982 to 1986. He served on the faculty of Harvard University for 42 years, working at the nexus of sanitary and environmental engineering, mathematical economics, and policymaking and public health.

Harrington received an A.M. in 1959 and a Ph.D. in 1963 from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, focusing on mathematical decision models for environmental control systems. Starting in 1960, he participated in the Harvard Water Program, which helped guide the United States’ water resource planning.

From there, Harrington embarked on a lengthy career. For more than two decades, he championed techniques in analytical approaches to natural resource development that offered flexibility in their application to world situations. He advocated the use of mathematical programming models to find a range of solutions to resource development and management. He further drew attention to how complex analytical models may be affected by a lack of technical and other data in developing countries, and emphasized the need for technology transfer to countries such as India and Brazil.

Harrington lectured in short courses sponsored by the World Health Organization in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and the United States. He worked on environmental resource projects in Nepal, the Philippines, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, China, and Jamaica, among others, and studied the implications of several tropical diseases in water resource management.

In the United States, he served as a consultant for federal, state, and local governments, including the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Research Council Committee on Water Supply and Wastewater Disposal, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Affairs.

He was one of three technical experts appointed in 1983 to manage large environmental impact studies for advanced wastewater treatment for Boston Harbor, as well as for the Potomac River in Washington D.C., and elsewhere. Closer to home, he served as president of the Cambridge Water Board in Massachusetts.

In addition to chairing the Department of Environmental Science and Physiology at HSPH (now the Department of Environmental Health), he also served as director of the Physical Sciences and Engineering Program (now the Exposure, Epidemiology, and Risk Program at HSPH) and as acting director of the Occupational Health Program. He served as acting director of the Center for Population Studies, and as acting chairman of the Department of Population Sciences. He was the founding director of the Master of Science Program in Health Policy and Management and also served as interim chair of the Department of Population and International Health.

A memorial service will be held today (Oct. 12) from 4 to 8 p.m. at Keefe Funeral Home, 2175 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. A memorial service is scheduled for Oct. 13 at the Story Chapel at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, Mass., at 11 a.m.