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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
Plenary Lecture: "A Global Passport for Microbiology"
American Society for Microbiology Annual Meeting
Salt Lake City, Utah

May 19, 2002

See also slide presentation.

If you're interested in reproducing any of the slides, please contact
The Office of Legislative and Public Affairs: (703) 292-8070.

Thank you, Abigail1, for the very kind introduction. When I addressed the American Society for Microbiology general meeting in Chicago three years ago, during the 100th anniversary of ASM, I was relatively new as director of the National Science Foundation.

At that time I surveyed some of the cutting-edge discoveries in microbiology. I also sketched a vision for our field that embraced discovery across the scales of complexity, drawing connections between our field and the rest of science, engineering, mathematics and education.

Looking back since then, the world has changed. Microbiology has hit the front pages with anthrax, smallpox, and re-emerging infectious diseases.

The National Science Foundation has changed also. It is now recognized, more than ever, as contributing to a sound economy, national security and social stability.

The NSF budget has increased by 50% and continues to grow. Graduate stipends have nearly doubled and biocomplexity is no longer enigmatic but instead is a vital program for understanding our environment.

Mathematics is richer, both in funding and discovery. These are just a few highlights. It's been a wonderful four years!

[title slide: earth at night, with title]
(Use "back" to return to the text.)

Since that meeting in Chicago-specifically, since September 11-our world has grown dramatically smaller, yet our responsibilities have deepened. Le Monde said it best with the headline: "We are all Americans!"

Our vision of the possible must also expand in step with microbiology's enormous promise. Anchored in a century-long tradition of discovery in service to society, we are poised on a journey to ever-greater dimensions.

I have titled my talk "A Global Passport for Microbiology" to underscore both the global science of microbiology and our global responsibilities.

Science and engineering have always flourished across national borders, but today's global scale of research is unprecedented. New ideas and new discoveries emerge regularly around the world.

International partnerships may be the only way to fund cutting-edge facilities too costly for any single nation, and many disciplines require access to sites in other nations. Especially as research grows increasingly interdisciplinary, more scientific questions become global in scope.

Since our questions, in particular, grow in import to our well-being on this planet, we can dare to hope and indeed to strive for what I call "microbial diplomacy."

[three themes of talk]

Microbiology today stands, quite fittingly, as a microcosm for the globalism of science and technology as a whole. One-third of ASM members come from outside the U.S., and appropriately so.

Just as microbiologists work across national boundaries, we increasingly surmount scientific boundaries to interact with other disciplines. Also, pathogens themselves do not carry passports, but move freely around the globe. These boundary-crossings are the themes I will pursue today.

[Satellite view of dust storm off N. Africa]

Here we see graphic evidence of the free flow of natural forces. A dust storm-in this case, originating in West Africa-surges out over the Atlantic Ocean. Charles Darwin himself, while sailing on the HMS Beagle off North Africa, noted heavy dust at sea.

Deep-sea sediments provide a record that tells us this dust transport in the Atlantic dates back many thousands of years.2

The African dust carries with it billions of microorganisms-many fungi, bacteria, and viruses, among them pathogens of both humans and plants 3, as well as organisms of benefit to agriculture and ecological systems.

Dust from the Gobi Desert recently swept over Japan and on to the west coast of the United States. Research on dust transport of microorganisms is in its infancy, yet the phenomenon underscores the smallness of our world.

[Pasteur and Koch]

As microbiologists, our historical legacy of international cooperation survived even the darkest days of conflict between nations. Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch were known for their rivalry in the race to isolate the cholera "germ," as it was referred to in those times.

Less known is that when a valued assistant of Pasteur contracted cholera and died in Egypt, Robert Koch himself helped to carry the coffin.

As my former student-now a Harvard historian--Eric Kupferberg observes, "Pasteur and Koch understood that their rivalry was a matter of national pride and ego, but not a matter greater than life and death."

After World War I, the first reconciliation of scientists from any discipline occurred between French and German researchers in Paris in 1927.

It was there that the International Society for Microbiology was founded, on the principle that "the sciences unite the nations in an ideal of inalterable peace and constant solidarity."

By 1947, there was a condemnation of biological warfare by the 4th International Congress of Microbiology. And in 1970 in Mexico City, at the 10th International Congress for Microbiology, another resolution was passed condemning biowarfare and research on it.

Mexico City was an epiphany, of sorts, for me. It was the first International Union of Microbiology Societies' congress I attended. It launched my international career in microbiology. And there, microbiologists reaffirmed their position against biological warfare...after September 11, 2001, the need to defend ourselves against bioterrorism became very obvious.

Again, I would like to thank Eric Kupferberg for the reminder of these landmark events, recorded in his historical review of microbiology.

[microbial earth]

Today microbiology is also crossing scientific boundaries, revealing fantastic new worlds wherever we turn, and contributing new hope to sustaining our planet.

I plan to explore some microbiological frontiers in the environment, and then turn to some puzzles of infectious disease, including my own work on cholera, that are solvable only in a broader ecological context.

Finally, against this global backdrop, I'll discuss how we might view our changing responsibilities in the aftermath of September 11, both at home and abroad.

[Fish swimming at undersea vent]

To set the stage for considering how the revolution in microbiology contributes to sustaining life, I would like to make a quick visit to the depths of the ocean, to visit the exquisite mineralized chimneys called "black smokers" that form around the hydrothermal vents on the seafloor and tower over dense communities of life.

We are all familiar with the submarine vents. They were discovered twenty years ago. Creatures there live without photosynthesis-relying on microorganisms for nutrition.

They exemplify microbial diversity even in the most extreme environment. These hot springs in the deep sea may prove to be the wellspring for life on our planet.

The footage we will see-never seen in public before-was taken very recently with an IMAX camera inside the submersible Alvin, and will be part of an upcoming film.

The National Science Foundation has supported Alvin from its earliest days, and we also helped to support the film I will show you. The footage shows vents in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. So let's visit the vents.

[Still: Life around undersea vents; video clip not available.]

Genomics, for the first time, offers the possibility to identify "what's out there" ---such as what lives in these rich communities around the vents. Although microorganisms constitute more than two-thirds of the biosphere, they represent a great unexplored frontier.

Of bacterial species in the ocean, even today less than 1 percent have been cultured. Just a milliliter of seawater holds about one million unnamed cells.

Last November, scientists, partly funded by NSF, sequenced DNA at sea for the first time. It came from vent organisms about two miles deep in the Pacific Ocean.

With NIH, we at NSF are now looking into how to connect this fundamental research to human health. For example, we know little about what happens to pathogens in the marine environment.

Indeed, many of us have hypothesized-and produced some evidence-that seafloor sediments may provide a long-term reservoir for pathogens.

On another note, from my own unpublished research, we have very recently identified bacterial strains of the genus Vibrio at hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean.

The molecular evidence suggests that these new Vibrio isolates share many properties of Vibrio cholerae, the organism that causes cholera. This work is being prepared for publication in collaboration with Anna-Louise Reysenbach, Erin Lipp, Irma Rivera, and colleagues and students from my laboratory.

These findings epitomize the new vision of microorganisms as sustainers of the biosphere and as the source of living diversity; indeed, as our very own progenitors.

Microorganisms teach us a lesson of great humility. In the words of Edward O. Wilson, "We have only begun to explore life on Earth." As he says, "The vast majority of the cells in your body are not your own; they belong to bacterial and other microorganismic species."

[Tree of Life]

As described by one of our discipline's foremost revolutionaries, Carl Woese, a new microbiology arrived on the doorstep of the new millennium. He notes that "...the universal phylogenetic tree...[provides] Biology as a whole with a new and powerful perspective, an image that unifies life through its shared histories and common origin."

Gone are the notions that life should be divided into five kingdoms or bisected into prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Thanks to Woese, all of life can be depicted in a universal, phylogenetic tree, based on ribosomal RNA.

The division of the tree into three domains reveals that the vast history and diversity of life is microbial, offering powerful ramifications for sustaining our planet, understanding emerging infectious diseases, and many other applications.

[W. Martin's E. coli evolution fig.]

This figure depicts genes flowing in and out of the E. coli chromosome over time. As we now know, microorganisms evolved by sharing their genomes to a startling extent.

[colored evolutionary exchange tree]

NSF heads an international program to assemble the genealogical Tree of Life, including tracing the web-like connections among lineages that result from horizontal gene transfer. We expect the tree will do for biology what the periodic table did for chemistry and physics--provide an organizing framework.

[new biocomplexity spiral]

This new framework adds a powerful tool to the approach I call biocomplexity. The term describes the study of complex interactions in biological systems, including humans, and between those systems and their physical environments.

We know that ecosystems do not respond linearly to environmental change. We also know that understanding demands observing at multiple scales, from the nano to the global. Complexity principles emerge at various levels, whether studying a cell, a human body, or an ecosystem.

With the perspective of biocomplexity, disciplinary worlds intersect to form fuller, more nuanced viewpoints.

[Richard Lenski: digital and bacterial evolution]

The synthetic perspective of biocomplexity brings surprising insights into the process of evolution. In a project supported by NSF, Richard Lenski at Michigan State has joined forces with a computer scientist and a physicist to study how biological complexity evolves, using two kinds of organisms--bacterial and digital.

Lenski's E. coli cultures are the oldest of such laboratory experiments, spanning more than 20,000 generations.

Here the two foreground graphs actually show the family tree of digital organisms--artificial life--evolving over time.

On the left, the digital organisms all compete for the same resource, so they do not diversify and the family tree does not branch out. On the right, the digital organisms compete for a number of different resources, and diversify.

In the background are round spots--actually laboratory populations of the bacterium E. coli, which also diversified over time when fed different resources. In vivo derives insight from in silico.

[Deming bacteria in Arctic sea ice]

Many disciplines have converged to let us probe the diversity of microbial life, even in the most extreme environments.

Here, from the work of Jodi Deming of the University of Washington and her student Karen Junge, are bacteria from the Arctic Ocean, apparently active in brine channels at -20 C.

We are beginning to learn about organisms living at the critical interface of water and ice.

[Image is not available. ]

At the other end of the world, viruses have been found deep within Antarctica's ice sheet. These images, from John Priscu of Montana State University, show viruses isolated from different depths in the ice beneath Vostok Station. The ice yielding the viruses ranges from 5000-240,000 years old.

The lower-left image is from the deepest ice that accreted from Lake Vostok water at 3655 m depth. That virus looks intriguingly different than the others. DNA tests are planned this summer.

[AMANDA drilling]

In Antarctica, the biocomplexity rubric spurred the development of a new detector for microbial life within the ice.

Buford Price, a University of Berkeley high-energy physicist, was working on an international project to detect neutrinos from space, using a detector buried within the ice sheet.

While assessing the light-transmitting qualities of the ice, Price wondered whether the detector could also search for fluorescence from microbial life. Antarctic tests showed promise; the device will be further refined in Greenland this summer.

In another unexpected intersection, Price and colleague Andrew Westphal used a long-duration balloon to study cosmic rays above Antarctica. The "ellipse filter" they developed to identify elliptical tracks of cosmic rays has been turned in a surprising new direction: to detect anthrax.

[build: Price optical sizing graph]

Bacillus spores are also ellipsoidal and about a micron in size. The graph shows that four Bacillus species cluster into distinct populations. The team hopes to test the device in mailrooms.

[build: Price endospore size vs. humidity/two clicks]

Another twist found by Price's group is that a sudden increase in relative humidity makes anthrax spores grow rapidly in size. Understanding this phenomenon may shed light on why a gaseous decontaminant such as chlorine dioxide kills spores only when relative humidity is between 70 and 90%.

[LTER international network]

Charting biocomplexity requires understanding across the frontiers of space and time, again underscoring the importance of the international dimension.

NSF supports a Long-term Ecological Research Network across the United States and beyond. The map shows countries with LTER networks and those planning to develop them. The LTER program meshes the microbial view with the satellite view, encompassing all levels in between.

[hyperspectral cube]

Remote sensing and information technology give us powerful tools to integrate information collected over the scales of space and time.

As put by University of New Mexico ecologist Jim Gosz, using this technique-high-resolution spectral imagery-is like seeing the landscape through a microscope instead of a hand lens.

This "hyperspectral cube," as it's called, shows 224 spectra for each pixel on the ground, in this case, distinguishing between different species of grasses, creosote bush, and bare ground. The technique can be used to identify stressed vegetation or to track invading species, pathogens and disease.

[NEON: general]

We need a much richer understanding of how organisms react to environmental change. Today, we simply do not have the capability to answer ecological questions on a regional to continental scale, whether involving invasive species or bioterrorist agents.

In this context, NEON--the planned National Ecological Observation Network--will be invaluable. This is a schematic portrayal of NEON, an array of sites across the country furnished with the latest sensor technologies.

[instrumenting the environment]

Here's an imaginative rendition of a NEON site fully instrumented (with apologies to the artist Rousseau). Networks such as NEON require state-of-the-art sensors of every type.

Such a site will measure dozens of variables in organisms and their physical surroundings. All the sites would be linked by high-capacity computer lines, and the entire system would track environmental change from the microbiological to the global scales.

[Richard Smalley slide]

Quite another frontier is the very small, and it is poised to spur momentous changes in our field and many others.

The living cells we work with all the time--as microbiologists--have employed nanotechnology for billions of years. The implications of nanotechnology for biology and medicine are staggering.

Nobelist Richard Smalley at Rice University describes nano as having two sides-wet, or biotechnology, and dry, the non-living world.

In his view the wet-dry interface is the ultimate frontier. For example, if a water-soluble molecule shrouds a carbon nanotube, it could theoretically be inserted into blood plasma or a cell's cytoplasm.

[Emerging and re-emerging infectious disease slide]

Not only science crosses borders these days. Emerging and re-emerging diseases pose another challenge of global dimensions.

[Burnet quote slide]

In 1962, Nobelist Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet wrote, "One can think of the middle of the 20th century as the end of one of the most important social revolutions in history-the virtual elimination of the infectious disease as a significant factor in social life."

Today, of course, infectious diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, ranking third in the United States. Even in Northern Virginia, for example, a "gateway" state for immigration, tuberculosis is on the rise. Drug-resistant strains compound the problem. As one author put it, "The worst bioterrorist may be nature itself." 4

My own research on cholera exemplifies the incorporation of interdisciplinarity, international cooperation, and the importance of understanding the ecology of a pathogen.

I would like to show a brief video that conveys some of the complexity of working on Vibrio cholerae. It suggests a way to work with our colleagues around the world that goes beyond "parachute science" to genuine collaboration. Now, the video.

[Video is not available. ]

[Chesapeake Bay cholera sampling sites slide]

In the 1970s, my colleagues and I realized that the ocean itself is a reservoir for V. cholerae, including V. cholerae 01, when we identified the organism in water samples from the Chesapeake Bay.

Our latest results using molecular methods and in situ sampling in the Chesapeake show a patchy distribution of some vibrios and seasonal abundance, in association with zooplankton fluctuations.

[cholera outbreaks, SST and SSH]

In Bangladesh, we discovered that cholera outbreaks occur shortly after sea surface temperature and sea surface height peak. This usually occurs twice a year, in spring and fall.

Furthermore, after a century without a major outbreak of cholera, a massive Vibrio cholerae epidemic occurred in the Western Hemisphere in the El Nino year of 1991, starting in Peru and spreading across South America. Thus, a linkage of cholera with El Nino events was discovered.

[deer mouse and Sevilleta landscape; image is not available]

An excellent illustration of the biocomplexity approach is a story of an outbreak of disease that will be familiar to many.

The carrier of the hantavirus, a new pathogen in the Four Corners area of the United States, turned out to be the deer mouse pictured here.

Biologists working at a Long-Term Ecological Research site, led by Terry Yates of the University of New Mexico and his team, and funded by NSF, were able to detect the deadly virus in mouse tissue that had been archived years before.

As it happened, Native American legends corroborated a history of outbreaks. In addition, the investigators showed a link between El Nino and the outbreak of disease.

[phylogeny of hantaviruses; image is not available]

Hantaviruses generally have evolved closely with their rodent hosts. Looking at this phylogenetic tree, on the left we see various viral strains, and on the right the rodent species that host each one.

[hantaviruses in North and South America; image is not available]

Here we see a map of New World hantaviruses. All but one have been discovered since 1993. They were here all the time but we just didn't know it.

[Canyon del Muerto; image is not available]

In New Mexico, Canyon del Muerto, pictured here peppered with red dots, seems to be a likely place for hantavirus to "hide" for years between outbreaks. It will be interesting to learn what role this virus plays in nature-stay tuned!

Let's now focus the lens of biocomplexity on two other emerging and reemerging diseases, whose tales are interwoven with ecological change and climate patterns.

[malaria pic: ENSO, malaria and Venezuela]

The first is malaria, a disease ripe for the perspective of biocomplexity. Forty years ago, we thought we had defeated human malaria. Today, hundreds of millions of people are infected each year, and in Africa, two children die from malaria every minute.

Among vector-borne diseases, malaria is one of the most sensitive to climate. We see here the linkage to El Nino.

[Hawaiian biota collage]

Models of avian malaria in Hawaii provide a microcosm with lessons for the more complex global issues of human malaria.

Neither malaria nor mosquitoes are native to the Hawaiian Islands. The project team studying avian malaria is led by David Duffy of the University of Hawaii.

Hawaii has lost about three-quarters of its bird species to extinction since humans arrived. Diseases like malaria are a major current threat to the rainforest birds.

As urbanization encroaches on the forest, mosquitoes gain habitat. Learning the complexities of scale and time, and of integrations among host, vector and environment, should lead to better models of malaria.

Duffy says, "There may be some interplay of malaria and host genetics with climate that we can exploit to save the last Hawaiian birds, while providing a paradigm to manage human malaria."

The malaria genome-an especially tough nut to crack-should be completed this year.

[20th century influenza epidemics]

Influenza, one of the most deadly of the reemerging diseases, also has undiscovered environmental complexities.

Climate is suspected to shape the seasonal cycles of influenza in some way. Outbreaks fluctuate greatly from year to year.

[U.S. Life expectancy: 1900-1960, from Taubenberger]

Here we see the impact the Spanish flu had on life expectancy in the United States (and I would like to thank Jeffrey Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for providing information on influenza).

Overall, the 1918 epidemic killed from 21-to-50 million people.

We know that influenza "changes its cassette" almost with every sneeze--it is constantly evolving, at great speed, and subtle mutations let the virus infect those who had it before.

[Cartoon: human, chicken and swine on icebergs]

Human influenza A originated in birds, but is closely related to that of swine, and is thought to have jumped from birds to swine to humans. Crossing species to a new host, the virus evolves much more quickly. As this "tip of the iceberg" graphic suggests, we have much to learn about influenza's complexities.

Understanding the complexity of our entire planet and communicating among nations are vital to facing the challenge of emerging and reemerging diseases. The same infrastructure can be used to detect outbreaks of disease, whether natural or deliberate.

As said recently in the journal Lancet, "...In an electronically interconnected world...about 65% of the world's first news about infectious disease events now comes from informal sources, including press reports and the Internet."

[Our new responsibilities...slide]

I turn now to my third theme, our new responsibilities in the context of homeland security and bioterrorism. Homeland security is a chimera unless we begin to truly see the entire planet as our home.

I would like to step back for a moment to September 11, which helped to reset our priorities and responsibilities. Presidential Science Advisor Jack Marburger commented that after "nine-eleven," other agencies talked about what they could do, while NSF talked about what we had done.

I would like to show a brief video of the World Trade Center site that illustrates one immediate search and rescue effort. Here it is...

[1.5-minute video of robots at Ground Zero; video is not available]

We will be seeing small, shoebox-sized robots that were deployed in the rubble by the search and rescue teams just a day after the attacks.

They were developed by robotics experts from the University of South Florida. The development was originally funded by NSF.

We can see a tethered robot crawling down a sewer--an example of how these robots can penetrate and report from spaces that may be too small or too dangerous for human rescue workers.

The tethers have a range of 100 feet, well beyond the seven feet of extension offered by the fire department's camera wands.

At one point we can see a simulated grid appear--that helps to orient and direct the robot. The robots helped to find five victims and another set of human remains.

We made a number of grants across the disciplines of science and engineering related to homeland security:

  • Computer modeling of Ground Zero is helping to understand why the Twin Towers collapsed, and how to tackle the environmental problems at the site.

  • Social scientists are studying public opinion in the U.S. and the Middle East before and after September 11. Others have analyzed how people responded psychologically to the disaster.

  • From mathematics comes a technique, borrowed from classical fluid dynamics, to restore a damaged photo-perhaps applicable in surveillance.

  • Look at the subway ticket with the purple thumbprint. This subway ticket is embedded with nano-detectors that can sense explosive residue on a customer's hand.

    [ anthrax bacteria]

  • New genetic markers have been found for anthrax from the whole-genome-sequencing just completed and funded by NSF. They distinguish the Bacillus anthracis isolate used in last fall's bioterror attack in Florida, clearly demonstrating the value of microbial sequencing as a tool against bioterrorism.

[ASM website declaration]

As microbiologists we are not used to being on the frontline of national defense. The ASM has reposted on its website the society's declaration against involvement in biological weapons.

[NYTimes headline about anthrax researcher]

Areas of microbiological research, formerly obscure, now appear routinely in front-page headlines.

[ Theresa Kohler in her lab]

Theresa Koehler, a microbial geneticist at the University of Texas Medical School, is shown here; she has studied anthrax for 20 years.

The red arrow points to a new piece of equipment added to her lab in addition to the safety hood and microscope: that's the surveillance camera, the dark globe embedded in the ceiling, that records what happens in her lab.

Theresa recalls her reaction on hearing of the anthrax attacks; she was greatly angry, she said "that someone would use a microorganism-my organism-to kill people. It was absolutely horrifying to me."

On the positive side, she believes the aftermath brought into the public eye the value of what microbiologists do, and raised her research area to greater attention.

[Category A pathogens-from Jim Hughes]

Anthrax, of course, is on the list of pathogens considered to be of greatest concern as bioweapon threats.

On the grand scale, we have relatively little experience with these pathogens, yet terms like "asymmetric warfare" -meaning that deadly methods are available even to a single individual intent on perpetrating a mass attack-are becoming common currency.

We know that harmless organisms might be engineered into virulent ones. Unfortunately, we have a very small academic research base.

The anthrax attacks also jolted us into realizing that we have an inadequate public health system. Our health-care facilities could easily be overwhelmed by a smallpox epidemic.

Whether we consider bioterrorism or infectious disease, we cannot protect just our own nation. It's not enough to produce smallpox vaccine only for the United States. These are global threats-and require a new perspective on "microbial diplomacy."

You will see a headline from a recent Economist: "Secrets and Lives."

[Economist headline: "Secrets and Lives"]

Some security measures may restrict research that helps protect against bioweapons. As The Economist article said, "Knowledge is power...But exactly what knowledge needs to be controlled depends on who these enemies are...Scientists cannot build on each others' results if they do not know them."

[Wash Post headline, May 8, 2002]

Another recent headline, this one from the Washington Post, reports a new mechanism being created to evaluate foreign students applying for visas.

How do such restrictions match up with the fact that our workforce is becoming increasingly globalized? As Presidential Science Advisor Jack Marburger pointed out at NSF just last week, "The research we rely on for our national security is being done around the world."

In the meantime we grapple with how to balance security and the reality that our higher-education system and our workforce have strong international ties.

[S&E Indicators, fig. 2-20, p. 2-33; S&E degrees earned by foreign students within each field]

Here is a quick snapshot demonstrating this global character of science and engineering. As an example, almost half of the engineering degrees in the U.S. are earned by foreign students, and over 45% of math and computer science PhDs.

[What work will buy: selected cities]

The global dimensions of security become clear when inscribed on a larger canvas. This chart shows the minutes of work needed to buy a kilogram of bread or rice-the top line-and a hamburger, the bottom line. The shorter the bars, the less time needed.

The long bars show that even basic foods are luxuries for the poor. What is more, this economic disparity is growing worldwide-more than doubling between the richest and poorest from 1960 to 1995.

Insights from the social sciences will become ever more critical to this broader perspective.

[concluding slide: earth at night changing to earth by day]

Today I began with some of the revolutionary changes in microbiology, changes that can be leveraged manyfold in unexpected directions as we explore the convergence of our discipline with the rest of science and engineering.

Whether looking at environmental sustainability, infectious disease, or security, we must consider more fundamentally how to incorporate the needs of the developing worlds into scientific progress.

After the First World War, Jules Bordet, the first president of the International Society for Microbiology, said, "During the ghastly period we have traversed, while other sciences lent to the task of destruction, it is this one, ours, that...remained nevertheless still capable of dedication and kindness...More than other sciences, ours can be a peaceful force that preaches to [all] the mutual aid and the concord..."

Today, in the United States, we are eager to engage our younger generation of scientists and engineers in forming closer bonds throughout the world via research and education.

We dare hope that international cooperation at its best will catalyze the partnerships among nations, even into coming generations. More now than ever, we need such efforts that transcend national borders and cultural divides.

Throughout geological history, microorganisms have been the most powerful force on our living planet. In our era, human beings have become a geophysical force in our own right.

Now as keepers of a kind of Promethean fire we ponder the flame we guard, remembering that "Prometheus" literally means "fore-thought"-thinking ahead.

Facing challenges on a global scale, we need that prescience - to move from reaction to prediction at the frontiers of complexity, and ultimately to prevention. With the legacy of tradition to build upon, and the breathtaking promise of our science, I believe we will meet the challenge.


1. Abigail Saylers, ASM president. Return to speech.

2. p. 24, Geotimes, Prospero. Return to speech.

3. U.S. Geological Survey study. Return to speech.

4. Frederick Cohan, Wesleyan Univ., Newsday, 11/18/01. Return to speech.



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