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Montgomery series focuses on science and society

During the fall term, the Montgomery Endowment brings to campus three influential researchers whose careers have shaped the ways in which we understand the relationship between science and the human experience. In a series titled "Science and Society," public health expert and former National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Dr. Rita R. Colwell, neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dr. Sidney Altman, will meet with students and faculty members and deliver major public lectures.

Rita Colwell (Oct. 10 to 14)
Rita Colwell
Rita Colwell

Rita Colwell is Chair of Canon US Life Sciences, Inc. and Distinguished University Professor, both at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water and health. She is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing worlds.

Colwell served as 11th director of the NSF from 1998 to 2004. She has authored or co-authored 16 books and more than 700 scientific publications and produced the award-winning film, Invisible Seas.

Colwell was President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute from 1991 to 1998 and a member of the National Science Board from 1984 to 1990. She holds a B.S. degree in bacteriology and an M.S. degree in genetics from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Washington. She has received more than 35 honorary degrees, including one from Dartmouth in 2003.

Her public lecture, "Science and Society in the 21st Century," will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11 in Filene Auditorium (Moore Hall).

Oliver Sacks (Oct. 19 and 20)
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks is Clinical Professor of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx, N.Y. and Adjunct Professor of Neurology at the NYU School of Medicine. He is also a consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Sacks is a prolific writer, perhaps best known for his 1985 collection of case histories, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, in which he describes patients living with various neurological conditions ranging from Tourette Syndrome and autism to Alzheimer's disease. Sacks received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989 for his study of Tourette Syndrome, a condition marked by involuntary tics and utterances. He earned his medical degrees in Queen's College, Oxford and completed his medical residency in neurology at UCLA.

His work is primarily concerned with the ways in which individuals survive and adapt to different neurological diseases and conditions, and what their experience can tell us about the human brain and mind. Dubbed "the poet laureate of medicine" by The New York Times, Sacks' books have received numerous awards and have been translated into 22 languages. His bestselling book Awakenings, based on his experimental use of the drug L-Dopa to treat survivors of the encephalitis pandemic of the early 20th century, later inspired the Academy Award-nominated film of the same title (starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams).

A regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, as well as various medical journals, Sacks is an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the New York Academy of Sciences and Queen's College, Oxford.

His public lecture, "Creativity and the Brain," will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the Moore Theater, Hopkins Center.

Sidney Altman (Oct. 31 to Nov. 4)
Sidney Altman
Sidney Altman

Sidney Altman is Sterling Professor of Biology and Professor of Chemistry at Yale University. He was previously a Montgomery Fellow in 1992. A molecular biologist, his career has been concerned with nucleic acid biochemistry and the genetics of tRNA.

Altman discovered, with Dr. Thomas Cech, that RNA (ribonucleic acid) in living cells is not only a molecule of heredity but can also function as a biocatalyst. This discovery, which countered accepted scientific beliefs of the molecular basis of life, won him the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Altman holds a degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Colorado. He has taught at Yale since 1971, becoming Dean of Yale College in 1985 where he did much to advance the importance of science in a liberal arts education. He returned to the post of professor on a full-time basis in 1989.

His public lecture, "Science and Society: Morality, Intellect, and Real Science," will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 4:30 p.m. in Filene Auditorium (Moore Hall.)

By JOEL AALBERTS

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Last Updated: 5/30/08