Science  25 May 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5828, pp. 1107

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  1. Pioneers


    DR. LINNAEUS, I PRESUME? Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus guaranteed himself a place in scientific history when he founded the field of taxonomy. This week, on the 300th anniversary of his birth, Linnaeus is alive and well in public memory, thanks at least in part to Hans Odöö.

    A 54-year-old Swedish writer, Odöö has built a successful second career impersonating Linnaeus. Since 1994, he has given 2600 performances before audiences including the Swedish royal family, scientists, and schoolchildren. Last week, he donned his Linnaeus costume for the opening of an exhibition of erotic art at Leufsta Bruk, a manor outside of Uppsala built in the 1740s by Charles De Geer, an entomologist and friend of Linnaeus. “It's a great honor for you to meet me,” he announced, invoking the scholar's comically egoistic personality. “I wrote five autobiographies and 72 books, many of which I reviewed anonymously.” In a typical performance, Odöö narrates anecdotes from Linnaeus's life.

    Odöö says stepping into Linnaeus's character has become second nature. For example, Odöö reacts in mock anger when somebody in the audience accuses him of mistreating his wife: “Who told you that? That's false.” And he beams with pleasure when somebody praises Linnaeus's poetry. “I feel like I'm trapped in Linnaeus,” says Odöö, who began playing the botanist while conducting tours at the Linnaeus Garden. “Sometimes I'll get in a cab to go to the airport, in my normal clothes, and the driver will say, ‘Ah, Linnaeus is traveling today.’”


    GLIB. When 23-year-old Chen Jia-Zhong graduated from Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, China, with a bachelor's degree last summer, he found himself without a job. Undeterred, he hit the Chinese academic lecture circuit.

    Presenting himself as a “Harvard Ph.D.,” a “Loeb Scholar,” or a “Harvard professor” working on brane cosmology—the idea that the universe is confined to a hypersurface (brane) within a higher-dimensional space—Chen got himself invited to give seminars at a half-dozen top Chinese institutions, including the Yunnan Astronomical Observatory; Shanghai Jiaotong, Fudan, and Donghua universities, all in Shanghai; and Zhejiang University, whose Center of Mathematical Sciences (CMS) made Chen a short-term visiting scholar, paying him a modest stipend. Last month, after Chen's credentials were questioned by an anonymous posting on a Chinese-language electronic bulletin board, CMS issued a statement saying it had asked Chen to leave after verifying that his Harvard Ph.D. was “fabricated.” Faculty members at Harvard University's Laboratory for Particle Physics and Cosmology, to which Chen claimed affiliation, told Science they have no knowledge of him.

    However, Zhejiang University officials say it was not Chen's claimed Harvard connection that got their attention but rather the papers he wrote. CMS Director Liu Kefeng says Chen has admitted his mistakes but deserves a chance at pursuing actual graduate studies because he “is very devoted to understanding cosmology.”



    MSRI HEAD. Duke University mathematician Robert Bryant has been named director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, California.

    A differential geometer, Bryant served as chair of MSRI's board from 2001 to 2004. He has also been a visiting professor at the institute, founded in 1982 and funded primarily by the National Science Foundation. “MSRI had an enormous influence on my own career, so I think it can be a positive influence on the developing careers of mathematicians around the world,” says Bryant. He says he will push to expand MSRI's outreach in fields outside of mathematics, such as biology and medicine, so as to improve the exchange between the math and science communities.

    Bryant starts his 5-year term on 1 August, succeeding David Eisenbud.

  4. Milestones

    MOVED TO ACT. A climatologist haunted by a killer flash flood in his hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado, has been named an “Environmental Hero” for his role in building the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS).

    Nolan Doesken, Colorado's state climatologist and a researcher at Colorado State University, was at home the night of 28 July 1997 when it rained more than 35 centimeters in 5 hours. He assumed that the National Weather Service would alert people, but no one called NWS to report the extreme rainfall, which wasn't picked up by radar. “I could have done something, and I didn't,” Doesken says about the flood, in which five people died. “It was life-changing.”


    Within a year, Doesken had organized local citizens to report precipitation in their backyards via the Web—useful data not only when floods are looming but also for climatologists studying drought and water supply. Thanks to federal and state funding, the network now includes 4000 volunteers in 18 states. In December, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave him a $200,000 grant to keep CoCoRaHS growing, and last month it honored him. “People are thrilled to help scientists when you make it easy for them to do that,” he says.