Dr. Robert Hawthorne White (1951 – 2014)

Dr. Robert White, our dear friend and colleague, died peacefully on March 19, 2014 while at work. Dr. White was a renowned research scientist at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) for 39 years. He held a PhD in Forestry from University of Wisconsin, a MS in Forest Products from Oregon State University and a BS in Wood Science from Penn State University. After working as a summer student at the FPL in 1972, Robert aspired to have a career in wood science and landed his first and only job at the Forest Products Laboratory in 1975. He was internationally-recognized by colleagues and mentored numerous scientists and students from all over the world.

robert whiteRobert’s research has had a major impact on establishing safety standards of building materials used in construction. Throughout his career, Robert had considerable involvement with ASTM International, chairing and serving on numerous committees that establish building code standards. He received the L.J. Markwardt Award in 2007 for his distinguished contributions to the knowledge of wood as an engineering material as related to improved utilization efficiency of this renewable resource. In 2009, ASTM presented Dr. White with an Award of Merit and an honorary title of Fellow for recognition of his outstanding contributions to the development of ASTM standards. Robert authored or co-authored more than 120 scientific publications over his career and his accomplishments were frequently highlighted in Washington D.C. by Forest Service Research & Development. He was responsible for the development of an on-line database for fire test data. The database, created in 2010 to provide a comprehensive source of test data files to the public, has been downloaded more than 150,000 times to date. Robert’s unparalleled integrity heralded his notoriety as a University lecturer, graduate student advisor, counselor to local fire departments, host to International visiting scientists, advisor to Underwriters Laboratories, and service as an expert witness.

Robert served as the Project Leader of Fire Safety and Wood Preservation for 14 years and was the Team Leader of Fire Safety Research for the past 9 years. He was an internationally-recognized expert on regulatory fire resistance tests and fire performance of wood products. Robert was as genuine as they come. He was best known for his meticulous attention to detail, scientific integrity and sense of humor. Robert was the pillar of the fire safety team at FPL and his expertise will be irreplaceable. Robert was a longtime member of the IAFSS.