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Debating bioethics
After the February dismissal of University of California cancer researcher Elizabeth Blackburn from the President’s Council on Bioethics, member
Janet Rowley, PhB’45, SB’46, MD’48, cosigned a letter with Blackburn accusing the council of making “selective use of science” for political and religious reasons. Rowley, a U of C hematology and oncology professor, said in a March 21 Associated Press report that Blackburn’s removal exemplified the Bush administration’s “destructive practices.” Council chair Leon Kass, SB’58, MD’62, a Chicago social-sciences professor and Bush appointee, dismissed the charges in an e-mail interview with Blackburn and a retiring council member were replaced by three new members, including Loyola College professor Diana J. Schaub, AM’83, PhD’92, who said in a March 2 Baltimore Sun interview that she would not be a “rubber stamp” for Bush’s views. Other alumni on the council are Pepperdine University public-policy professor James Q. Wilson, AM’57, PhD’59, and Harvard University law professor, Mary Ann Glendon, AB’59, JD’61, MCL’63, who was recently appointed president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, making her the Catholic church’s highest ranking lay woman in an advisory position.

IMAGE: Bioethics council head Leon Kass
Courtesy University of Chicago Chronicle

Bioethics council head Leon Kass

Scholars saluted
Ten Chicago alumni out of 185 recipients won Guggenheim fellowships for 2004. Granted to scholars in 79 fields, this year’s no-strings-attached awards totaled $6,912,000. Among the winners were anthropologists Benjamin Lee, AM’73, PhD’86, a Rice University professor who studies cultures of circulation, Thomas A. Abercrombie, AM’78, PhD’86, a New York University associate professor researching social climbing, self-narrative, and modernity in the Spanish transatlantic world (1550–1808), and Robert A. LeVine, AB’51, AM’53, a Harvard University professor studying the anthropology of parenting. Alumni mathematicians took two awards: Michael P. Brenner, PhD’94, a Harvard University professor for research on mathematical models in development biology, and Panagiota Daskalopoulos, SM’88, PhD’92, a Columbia University professor for research on nonlinear diffusion equations. Also included were Steven Johnstone, AM’84, PhD’89, a University of Arizona associate professor studying trust in Ancient Greece; Martha Ann Selby, PhD’94, a University of Texas at Austin associate professor who studies form, style, and symbol in a late Old Tamil romantic anthology; Leo Treitler, AB’50, AM’57, a City University of New York professor emeritus investigating discourse about music; and J. Marshall Unger, AB’69, AM’71, an Ohio State University professor studying language contact in early Japanese history. History of science professor Robert J. Richards, PhD’78, one of three U of C faculty members granted fellowships (along with Carles Boix, political science, and Mark Lilla, Committee on Social Thought), researches Ernst Haeckel and Germany’s battle over evolution.

Alumni also-rans
Losing Taiwan’s presidential election by 30,000 votes (only .22 percent of the total cast, according to the April 2 Washington Times), Lien Chan, AM’61, PhD’65, chair of the Kuomingtang, or Nationalist Party, repeatedly called for a recount and investigation into a pre-election assassination attempt on victorious incumbent Chen Shui-bian, who was inaugurated May 20 despite lingering opposition lawsuits. Another presidential hopeful, Mohammad Amien Rais, PhD’81, is campaigning in Indonesia, aiming to snag the July election for the National Mandate Party (PAN). In the April 5 general elections PAN took about 6.5 percent of the vote. With 16.7 percent of Argentina’s votes in last spring’s presidential elections, former economy minister Ricardo Lopez Murphy, AM’80, came in third, missing the chance to participate in the presidential runoff.

Research taken to new heights
Despite increasing wealth, Americans have not grown any taller in the past 50 years; Europeans, on the other hand, have sprouted. That’s according to the April 5 New Yorker’s “The Height Gap,” which detailed research by anthropometric historians
John Komlos, AM’72, PhD’78, PhD’90, and Richard Steckel, AM’73, PhD’77, into why some cultures produce giants while others get lost in the crowd. As summarized in the article, height—dependent on birth, upbringing, social class, diet, and health care—indicates a society’s well being. While the U.S. GNP may continue to grow, as “America’s rich and poor drift further apart, its growth curve may be headed in the opposite direction,” and, as “more and more Americans turn to a fast-food diet, its effects may be creeping up the social ladder, so that even the wealthy are getting wider rather than taller.”—A.L.M.



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