Academy of Humanism names 10 new members. (Jihad-OP-ED).
ETIENNE-EMILE BAULIEU (France)
Endocrinologist Etienne-Emile Baulieu is one of the world's foremost authorities on the action of steroid hormones in the human body. Such hormones play critical roles in reproduction, aging, and memory loss. He is best known as the inventor of RU-486, the abortion pill that just controversially received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for sale in the United States. (RU-486 has been marketed in France since 1985.) In 1989 Baulieu won the Lasker Award for Clinical Medicine, widely considered the second-most illustrious prize in medicine second only to the Nobel. He is a member of the College de France and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1990.
RU-486, also called mifepristone, functions by blocking the action of the hormone progesterone, resulting in miscarriage in about 97 percent of all cases. The drug makes it possible for women to end unwanted pregnancies under the care of their regular doctor and without the need to visit freestanding clinics that may be under siege by protesters. It has been available in Europe except Italy since 1988 and was banned from Australia by conservative legislative action in 1996.
BARUJ BENACERRAF (United States)
Immunologist Baruj Benacerraf received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1980 for his study of genes in the major histocompatibiity complex of mammals that help to regulate immune response. This work in immunogenetics was foundational for later research into immonsuppression and autoimmune disorders such as HIV/AIDS. Born in Venezuela, Benacerraf began his research career in France before moving to the U.S. in 1956. He conducted his research at the New York University School of Medicine, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and ultimately Harvard Medical School.
Benacerraf was elected to the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as president of the American Association of Immunologists, the American Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, the International Union of Inununological Socicties, and the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute.
DANIEL C. DENNETT (United States)
Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel C. Dennett is a prime exponent of a mechanical explanation for consciousness, a defender of evolutionary theory and a leading researcher in robotics and cognitive software design. He is Distinguished Arts and Sciences Professor, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, Dennett's career manifests an intellectual odyssey during which philosophy, computer science, and Darwinian theory have cross-fertilized in unpredictable ways. In his major work, Consciousness Explained (1991), he argued for a physical, algorithm-based model of consciousness in which the subjective impression of self-awareness (the "homunculus") is an abstraction created by the brain to help it regulate its functions. Dennett was among the first to posit a "learning algorithm" in the human mind, to interpret learning as a Darwinian process, and to consider the human mind as analogous to software. In Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), he argued for a radical understanding of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory that undercuts all prescientific and religious conceptions of human nature. He has also led pioneering experiments with cognitive robotic systems. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
SIR HAROLD W. KROTO (United Kingdom)
An outspoken humanist and atheist, Sir Harold W. Kroto received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996. With Robert F. Curl, Jr., and Richard E. Smalley Kroto discovered fullerenes ([C.sub.60]), a unique crystalline form of carbon in which clusters of sixty carbon atoms form closed shells with potential applications in chemistry electronics, and advanced materials. They are named after Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic dome is echoed by the crystalline structures of fullerenes.
Kroto was born in England of Silesian refugee parents and educated at Sheffield and Sussex Universities. He did postdoctoral work at the National Research Council of Canada and Bell Labs before joining the Sussex faculty. His principal area of specialty is microwave spectroscopy. In addition to his role in discovering fullerenes, he discovered the existence of carbon molecular chains in deep space and created the first molecules with carbon/prosphorus double bonds.
Raised Jewish, Kroto began to lose his faith in childhood and now endorses humanism, democracy and human rights as appropriate responses to a "fascinating and beautifully elegant world" that "operates exactly the way one would expect it to in the absence of a mystical power."
PAUL D. BOYER
Paul D. Boyer shared (with John E. Walker) half of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the enzymatic mechanism by which adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is synthesized in living cells. Living cells use ATP to capture energy from digestion of nutrients and transfer it to cell processes requiring energy. Based at the University of California at Los Angeles, Boyer previously held faculty positions at the University of Minnesota and Stanford University. Among his publications is an eighteen-volume series on enzyme chemistry He has served as president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, whose Rose Award he has also received.
In his Nobel Prize autobiography, Boyer praised the words of 1996 chemistry laureate Harold W. Kroto (also named to the Academy of Humanism this year), who devoted several paragraphs of his own autobiography to his humanist and atheist views. Concurring with Kroto, Boyer used his own Nobel autobiography to ask, "I wonder if in the United States we will ever reach the day when the man-made concept of a God will not appear on our money and for political survival must be invoked by those who seek to represent us in our democracy"
JACK STEINBERGER (United States)
Jack Steinberger shared the 1988 Nobel Prize for Physics for groundbreaking research using a high-energy neutrino beam. He was born in Germany in 1921 and emigrated to the United States in 1934 with his older brother. At the time the Nazis had passed a law prohibiting Jewish children from being educated in public schools. In the United States, Steinberger was able to attend public school in a prosperous suburb of Chicago, offering, he says, "horizons unimaginable to the young immigrant from a small German town." An American benefactor helped the rest of his family join him, and they purchased a delicatessen and moved to Chicago.
Steinberger began college at the Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology) where he studied chemical engineering. The Depression forced him to interrupt his education many times, but he finally finished his undergraduate work in chemistry at the University of Chicago in 1942. He joined the Army, where he was introduced to physics and electromagnetic wave theory. After the war he worked at Princeton University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Columbia University, where he participated in Nobel Prize-winning research in the early 1960s. Afterward, he conducted research at CERN and became a part-time professor at the Scuba Normale Superiore in Pisa.
JENS C. SKOU (Denmark)
Membrane physiologist dens C. Skou shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997 for his discovery of Na+, K+ATPase, the first ion-transporting enzyme. He enjoyed a nearly idyllic youth, growing up in a wealthy Danish family able to afford a summer house and a sailboat. After graduating from gymnasium (high school) in 1937, he decided to study medicine at the University of Copenhagen. in 1940 the Germans occupied Denmark, and conditions in the country gradually deteriorated (curiously, Danes were even banned from sailing). Resistance among the Danes grew, and Skou's education was disrupted. Eventually reluctant to assemble in public, he and his graduating class took the Hippocratic oath in secret.
Skou first learned surgery when another doctor trained him to relieve him for small operations so he could retrieve weapons and explosives dropped by English planes to fight the Germans. He then focused on local anesthetics. In 1947 he went to the Institute of Physiology, where he identified the sodium potassium pump, the mechanism that transports sodium and potassium across the cell membrane. In 1977 he became chair of Biophysics at the medical faculty, He retired in 1988, but began to develop kinetic models of the ion pump on the computer.
STEVEN PINKER (United States)
Steven Pinker was born in 1954 in Montreal, Canada's Jewish community and became an atheist at thirteen. He went to McGill University and obtained a doctorate in experimental psychology in 1979. Since 1994 he has been a professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Research in Pinker's MIT laboratory includes empirical studies of language in children, adults, and neurological populations, and theoretical syntheses of diverse topics in language, cognition, and psychology. He is the author of two best-selling books, The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works among other publications. Pinker is known for his development of computational models of how children learn the words and grammar of their first language and its application to the workings of the mind in general.
JEAN-MARIE LEHN (France)
Organic chemist Jean-Marie Lehn shared the 1987 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the development and use of molecules with highly selective structare-specific interactions. He was born in 1939 in France and entered high school at the age of eleven. At the University of Strasbourg he developed an interest in organic chemistry, which became the focus of his life's work. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 1963, based on studies of the conformational and physico-chemical properties of triterpenes, he worked at a Harvard University laboratory where he contributed toward the work on the synthesis of Vitamin B12. Returning to the University of Strasbourg, his work developed into what he christened "supramolecular chemistry." Since 1980, when he took over the chemistry laboratory of the College de France, he has concentrated on combining the recognition, transport, and catalytic properties displayed by supramolecular species with the features of organized phases, with the goal of creating molecular devices that could perform signal and information processing at the molecular level.
RICHARD LEAKEY (Kenya)
Richard Leakey may be the world's best-known paleo-anthropologist. In thirty years he and his team, known as the "The Hominid Gang," have discovered more than two hundred fossils, including the 1.6 million-year-old homo ereetus "Turkana Boy" He is also respected for his work in the preservation of Kenyan wildlife and culture. He is a former director of Kenya's National Museums and a former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Concern for wildlife preservation led him into conflict with an increasingly corrupt Kenyan government. In response he helped found an opposition party called Safina and has suffered beatings, threats, and government surveillance as a result.
At one time Leakey's career as a paleo-anthropologist seemed unlikely Although the son of famed fossil hunters Louis and Mary Leakey on expeditions with his parents he ignored the work at hand and instead turned his attention to tracking wildlife. But it was in this pursuit that he developed his skills of observation and love of wildlife.
Leakey is the author of many books and articles and has presented several television progams, including the five-part series Making of Mankind and NBC's Earthwatch.
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|Date:||Dec 22, 2001|
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