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Stanford Law Professor John H. Barton died on August 3, 2009, nearly three weeks after a bicycle accident had put him into a coma. John was 72 years old and had retired from Stanford Law School in 2002, but he remained an active presence at the School. He was still excitedly working on new and continuing projects, mainly aimed at improving health in the developing world.
John graduated with from Marquette University in 1958 with degrees in philosophy and in physics. After three years of service in the US Navy, he worked for several years as an engineer. In 1965 – married, with children – he became a 1L at Stanford Law School and had a brilliant student career. After law school he worked as an associate for one year with the firm then known as Wilmer, Cutler, and Pickering before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1969. Until last week, he never left.
From the beginning of his career John was fascinated by the intersections of science, law, and society. He worked on nuclear weapons control, environmental problems, and human health, almost always with an international field of vision. From his earliest faculty days through his death, he did not care whether he was doing traditional law professor work – he worked with scientists, lawyers, policy-makers, and anyone else in his effort to make the world a better place.
John was a man of integrity so great that I’m not sure he ever noticed it – I believe it never occurred him not to do the right thing. He combined curiosity, intellectual rigor, and compassion better than anyone I have known. He was a great mentor, a great friend, and a very good man. His friends, Stanford Law School, and the world are all diminished by his too early death, but we are all better as a result of his life.