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Humanist profile: Oscar Riddle 1958: Humanist of the Year.

"Our own now-misplaced supernaturalism, slightly mitigated but persisting into the new Age of Science, has left our social and political leadership unprepared to define accurately our present problem, and unprepared to lead in basic ways to meet those pressing dangers."

--Oscar Riddle in the July/August 1959 Humanist.

Oscar Riddle was born September 27, 1877, in Indiana where he received his early education. He earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1907 then taught biology and physiology in Puerto Rico and Saint Louis, Missouri, and zoology at the University of Chicago. He conducted research in the fields of evolution, natural history, endocrinology, and reproduction in the United States and Europe and participated in natural history expeditions in Cuba and up the Orinoco River in South America.

Riddle was a distinguished member of biological societies in England, France, India, South America, and the United States. in 1932 he and his coworkers were the first to isolate the "pregnancy hormone" prolactin which, due to the difficulty of distinguishing and separating it from growth hormone, wasn't fully isolated until 1971. The next year he earned a degree in law. During the New York World's Fair in 1939 Riddle, a leader in the popularization effort among biologists, openly condemned the fair's commercialism and neglect of serious science. He made the cover of Time magazine that same year.

As a member of the staff of the Carnegie Institution Station for Experimental Evolution, Riddle wrote extensively, contributing papers on the physiology and chemical bases of sex, heredity, and endocrinology. He won many honors, including two first prizes in 1955 for his book, Unleashing the Evolutionary Thought. The American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year in 1958.

Riddle was president of the American Rationalist Federation in 1959 and 1960. In his later years he lived in Florida where he died in 1968 at the age of ninety-one. Riddle is recognized today not only for his scientific accomplishments but also for his conviction that religion poses a serious threat to scientific advancements--a conviction that is particularly relevant to controversies raging today.
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Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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