Newsmakers

Science  02 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5812, pp. 581
  1. IN PRINT

    CREDIT: REUTERS/STR NEW

    A BRAIN REVEALED. Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper (above) was the world's oldest person and a minor celebrity when she died in 2005 at the age of 115. Now, many months after her decision to donate her body to research (Science, 9 September 2005, p. 1670), her name is at the center of a controversy.

    On 23 January, anatomist Gert Holstege (below) of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) in the Netherlands named Van Andel in a study published online by Neurobiology of Aging. Later that day, the center's governing board reprimanded him for revealing her identity. Although Holstege disagreed with UMCG's charge that he'd violated Van Andel's privacy, he asked the journal to retract the paper pending a resolution. The journal agreed.

    Holstege says the medical center's suggestion to delete Van Andel's name makes no sense because her age and other details would be a dead giveaway. Besides, says Holstege, she had talked about her planned donation to reporters and “would have loved” the posthumous spotlight. “She was so sharp, I almost wanted her as a grad student,” he said about Van Andel, whose brain he called comparable to that of someone in her 60s.

  2. IN THE COURTS

    INVENTORS, KEEPERS. After a protracted legal fight with Duke University, physicist John Madey of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, has been reunited with a free-electron laser he built 2 decades ago. Madey plans to use the device to explore quantum-mechanical interactions between light and atoms and molecules.

    Madey developed the laser at Stanford University and brought it with him to Duke in 1988. When Duke forced Madey out as head of the laser lab in 1997, he sued, claiming patent infringement. Duke, which kept the laser after Madey left a year later for Hawaii, claimed the right to use it for academic research. In 2003, a federal appeals court rejected Duke's argument. Madey and Duke reached a settlement last year, and the machine arrived at his lab in January. “I always knew it would happen,” Madey says. “It was just a question of when.”

  3. HONORS

    BIOCLOUT. Molecular biologist Nancy Ho of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, has won many accolades for her work on enzymes that make biofuels. But none matched her invitation to attend last week's State of the Union Address by President George W. Bush, who wants to boost biomass research funding. “I'm really very grateful for the honor,” says Ho, who sat one seat away from First Lady Laura Bush. The diminutive (5 foot, 1 inch) scientist almost disappeared from view, however, when the TV cameras zoomed in on the honoree next to her, the 7-foot, 2-inch basketball player—turned-philanthropist Dikembe Mutombo. No problem, she says: The important thing is the newfound attention for her field.

    CREDIT: DAVE UMBERGER/PURDUE UNIVERSITY

    MARINE SOS. A U.S. and a Chilean ecologist will share a $658,000 research prize from Spain's largest bank. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria's foundation has recognized Jeremy Jackson of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, and Juan Carlos Castilla of the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago for lifetime achievements in marine conservation.

    Jackson has studied the effects of the closing of the seaway that once joined the Pacific and Atlantic and has highlighted the devastating effects of overharvesting. Castilla has done experiments involving manipulation of rocky shore flora and fauna of Chile and tested “learning by doing” approaches to fisheries management.

  4. MILESTONES

    CREDIT: AP PHOTO

    FORGOTTEN GENIUS. Percy Julian's synthesis in 1935 of physostigmine, used to treat glaucoma, has been called one of the 25 most important achievements in chemistry of the 20th century. In 1973, Julian became only the second African American to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). But his accomplishments didn't stop racists from fire-bombing his home when Julian moved to the all-white Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, shortly after World War II. Although his neighbors decried the attacks, a greater deterrent may have been Julian's decision to spend night after night perched in a tree, shotgun in hand. Julian used the time to teach his then-10-year-old son about bigotry and intolerance.

    Julian's story, “Forgotten Genius,” will air 6 February on many PBS stations (pbs.org/wgbh/nova/julian). As Catherine Hunt, president of the American Chemical Society, said last week at an NAS screening of the show, “Percy Julian heard the word ‘no’ many times in his career and in his life, … and yet he persevered.”

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