In Memoriam: Dr. John Briscoe (1948-2014)

November 18, 2014

Canadian Water Network extends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. John Briscoe, who passed away on November 12, 2014.  We join with the global community in paying tribute to his exemplary scholarship and leadership:

John was a Professor of Environmental Engineering at Harvard University, where he directed the Harvard Water Security Initiative. He was nominated by Harvard students for the Joseph Levenson Prize “to recognize exceptional teaching of undergraduates,”  the Marquand Award for “exceptional advising and counseling of Harvard students,” and the Star Prize for “exceptional mentoring of students.” He was also awarded a Hauser Grant for Innovation in Learning and Teaching from Harvard University.

His career focused on water issues, other natural resources and economic development. He worked as an engineer in the government water agencies of South Africa and Mozambique; as an epidemiologist at the Cholera Research Center in Bangladesh; as a professor of water resources at the University of North Carolina.  In his 20-year career at the World Bank he held high-level technical positions (as the Bank’s Senior Water Advisor) and managerial positions (Country Director for Brazil, the World Bank’s biggest borrower). Mr. Briscoe’s role in shaping the governance and strategy of the World Bank is the subject of a chapter in the definitive history of the Bank, Sebastian Mallaby’s The World’s Banker (Penguin, 2006).

John received his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at Harvard University in 1976 and his B.Sc. in Civil Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa in 1969. In addition to his native South Africa, he lived in the United States, Bangladesh, Mozambique, India and Brazil and spoke English, Afrikaans, Bengali, Portuguese, and Spanish.

He was a founding member of major global water partnerships, including the World Water Council, the Global Water Partnership, and the World Commission on Dams. John served on the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Academy of Sciences and the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum.  He most recently served as a member of the Council of Distinguished Water Professionals of the International Water Association, on the Advisory Board of the Center for Global Development, and on the International Advisory Board of the Indian Council for Environment, Energy and Water.

John’s recent consultancies included work with the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the Asian Development Bank, the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, the US National Intelligence Council, the National Water Commission of Australia, the Government of Chile, the OECD, McKinsey, Nestle, Inbev and The Nature Conservancy. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and published extensively in the media and in professional economic, finance, environmental, health and engineering journals.

John was awarded the Grande Medalha da Inconfidência, one of Brazil’s highest awards. He also received the President’s Award of the International Water Association and the Stroud Prize for Excellence in Water.

John Briscoe was the 2014 Laureate for the Stockholm Water Prize, widely known as “the Nobel Prize for Water.”

Dr. Briscoe's obituary, The Washington Post