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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


Dr. Rita R. Colwell
Gemini North Dedication Ceremony
Mauna Kea, Hawaii

June 25, 1999

Good morning and welcome to everyone. I am honored on behalf of the National Science Foundation to open our dedication ceremony for the Gemini North Observatory.

This is a special place and a special time and a focus of many connections, some tangible and some symbolic.

We have gathered on this mountaintop, a mystical place where earth meets sky, to celebrate a milestone in the efforts of humankind to fix our place in the universe, a universe that is unimaginably vast.

How symbolic that this first capture of starlight by an instrument of unprecedented precision comes also at a special moment--just as we are counting down the days to a new millennium.

This observatory symbolizes our hopes for a new era of scientific exploration and collaboration.

It's not just the altitude but also the occasion that takes our breath away. We stand here on the brink of discoveries we cannot even imagine.

We can only be sure they will enlarge our vision and make our spirits soar--into this thin air and far beyond. I turn to the words of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who wrote, "Every day you play with the light of the universe."

We know that connections interweave our universe at every scale. Thus each of us is made of atoms borne of stars. The many and various connections give the Gemini project a special vigor.

Gemini is the only one of the new generation of telescopes to have a double. It is really a pair of eyes, one in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the south, whose linkages create the ability to sweep the entire sky.

We will see images in the infrared, garnered from an earthbound instrument, that will surpass those from space. And another achievement: The telescopes will be open to any astronomer from the participating nations.

This observatory represents the journey by scientists, engineers, and administrators to a symbolic summit. Together, we overcame many obstacles through courage, creativity, and connections.

The links of the project stretch across our planet, among seven countries and four continents. This partnership has fused resources into a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

We also celebrate today the start of new and stronger links between the disciplines of science. The observatory will help us to explore and deepen the connections between astronomy and physics, and between chemistry and the biological sciences.

All of these are invigorated by the connections forged through today's information technologies. The Gemini Project also embodies exemplary connections between research and education. This telescope and its southern twin are not only finely crafted research instruments, but also cutting-edge laboratories for science education.

We know how astronomy's universal appeal can spark an abiding curiosity in minds young and old. The discoveries made here will magnify that power to move minds.

We will link scientists and schools in Chile with those in the United States, and young people in Canada and the United Kingdom with those in South America and Australia.

Our ceremony here today, with individuals from many institutions and various nations, embodies in microcosm these multiple linkages. Let us begin with my distinguished colleagues here today.

Closing Remarks

It is time now to close our dedication ceremony of the Gemini North Observatory. We have heard different voices and different perspectives about the meaning of this telescope to scientists, to students, and to different nations.

Here, on this great island in the middle of the Pacific, the connections meet. This place was first found by early navigators with the courage to explore.

They also gave us our first glimmerings of cosmography. Having dedicated this telescope to exploration in that tradition, let us now send it searching for our new shores.

In the Gemini Observatory we have a model for scientific collaboration with the promise to connect countries, disciplines, research and education--and our past with our future.

Thank you.



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