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Friday, May 20, 2011

Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis (born March 5, 1938) is an American biologist and University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is best known for her theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles, and her contributions to the endosymbiotic theory, which is now generally accepted for how certain organelles were formed.

In addition to rejecting Neo-Darwinian evolution as an explanation for diversity (on the grounds of her belief that random mutation and differential survival are insufficient to account for speciation), Margulis holds a number of opinions outside of mainstream science. In 2009 she co-authored a paper arguing that the change in spirochete form, from more motile helical to more inactive cyst and back, may be a causal contributor to AIDS. In 2009 she also pushed the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) to publish a paper by Donald I. Williamson arguing that butterflies are the result of hybridization of a now extinct insect and velvet worms. Williamson's paper provoked immediate response from the scientific community, including a paper in PNAS. Developmental Biologist and Professor at Duke university Fred Nijhout was quoted as saying that the paper was better suited for "National Enquirer than the National Academy.". In September it was announced that PNAS will eliminate Communicated submissions in July 2010 but PNAS stated that the decision had nothing to do with the Williamson controversy.

Margulis was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983 and served as Chairman of the Academy’s Space Science Board Committee on Planetary Biology and Chemical Evolution.
guest Hagey Lecturer, University of Waterloo, 1985
She was inducted into the World Academy of Art and Science, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences between 1995 and 1998.
In 1998 the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, announced that it would permanently archive Dr. Margulis' papers.
In 1999 she received the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement for scientific achievement.
In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President William J. Clinton.
She is also a proponent and co-developer of the modern version of Gaia hypothesis, based on an idea developed by the English atmospheric scientist James Lovelock.
She is profiled in a book published in 2006 by Resurgence Magazine in the UK, called Visionaries: The 20th Century's 100 Most Important Inspirational Leaders.
In 2006 with her son Dorion, she founded Sciencewriters Books, an imprint of Chelsea Green Publishing for science books.
In 2007 she expressed her support for a new investigation of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In 2008 she was one of thirteen recipients of the Darwin-Wallace Medal, which, until now, has only been bestowed every 50 years, by the Linnean Society of London.
In March 2009 she spoke at the Biological Evolution Facts and Theories Conference held at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome aimed at promoting dialogue between evolutionary biology and Christianity.
In June 2010 she was inducted into the Leonardo DaVinci Society of Thinking[relevant? – discuss]; accepting induction at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ.

Lynn Margulis attended the University of Chicago, earned a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1960, and received her Ph.D. in 1963 from UC Berkeley. In 1966, as a young faculty member at Boston University, she wrote a theoretical paper entitled The Origin of Mitosing Eukaryotic Cells. The paper however was "rejected by about fifteen scientific journals," Margulis recalled. It was finally accepted by The Journal of Theoretical Biology and is considered today a landmark in modern endosymbiotic theory. Although it draws heavily on symbiosis ideas first put forward by mid-19th century scientists and by Merezhkovsky (1905) and Wallin (1920) in the early-20th century, Margulis's endosymbiotic theory formulation is the first to rely on direct microbiological observations (as opposed to paleontological or zoological observations which were previously the norm for new works in evolutionary biology). The paper was initially heavily rejected, as symbiosis theories had been dismissed by mainstream biology at the time. Weathering constant criticism of her ideas for decades, Margulis is famous for her tenacity in pushing her theory forward, despite the opposition she faced at the time.
The underlying theme of endosymbiotic theory, as formulated in 1966, was interdependence and cooperative existence of multiple prokaryotic organisms; one organism engulfed another, yet both survived and eventually evolved over millions of years into eukaryotic cells. Her 1970 book, Origin of Eukaryotic Cells, discusses her early work pertaining to this organelle genesis theory in detail. Currently, her endosymbiotic theory is recognized as the key method by which some organelles have arisen (see endosymbiotic theory for a discussion) and is widely accepted by mainstream scientists. The endosymbiotic theory of organogenesis gained strong support in the 1980s, when the genetic material of mitochondria and chloroplasts was found to be different from that of the symbiont's nuclear DNA.
In 1995, prominent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins had this to say about Lynn Margulis and her work:
“ I greatly admire Lynn Margulis's sheer courage and stamina in sticking by the endosymbiosis theory, and carrying it through from being an unorthodoxy to an orthodoxy. I'm referring to the theory that the eukaryotic cell is a symbiotic union of primitive prokaryotic cells. This is one of the great achievements of twentieth-century evolutionary biology, and I greatly admire her for it.

Robert Whittaker

Robert Harding Whittaker (1920–1980) was a distinguished American plant ecologist, active in the 1950s to the 1970s.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, he obtained a B.A. at Washburn Municipal College (now Washburn University) in Topeka, Kansas, and, following military service, his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.
He held teaching and research positions at Washington State College in Hanford, Washington, the Hanford National Laboratories (where he pioneered use of radioactive tracers in ecosystem studies), Brooklyn College, University of California-Irvine, and, finally Cornell University.
Extremely productive, Whittaker was a leading proponent and developer of gradient analysis to address questions in plant community ecology. He provided strong empirical evidence against some ideas of vegetation development advocated by Frederic Clements. Whittaker was most active in the areas of plant community analysis, succession, and productivity. "During his lifetime Whittaker was a major innovator of methodologies of community analysis and a leader in marshaling field data to document patterns in the composition, productivity and diversity of land plant communities. Thus Whittaker was innovative in both empirical data sampling techniques as well as synthesizing more holistic theories.
He was the first to propose the five-kingdom taxonomic classification of the world's biota into the Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, and Monera. He also proposed the Whittaker Biome Classification, which categorized biome-types upon two abiotic factors: temperature and precipitation.
Whittaker was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1974, received the Ecological Society of America's Eminent Ecologist Award in 1980, and was otherwise widely recognized and honored. He collaborated with many other ecologists including George Woodwell (Dartmouth), W. A. Neiring, Herb Borman (Yale) and G. E. Likens (Cornell) , and was particularly active in cultivating international collaborations.
Ph.D. Students

Ecologists completing Ph.D.s under Whittaker include Walter Westman, Robert Peet (now at University of North Carolina), Susan Bratton (now at Baylor University), Thomas Wentworth (now at North Carolina State University), Owen Sholes (now at Assumption College), Mark Wilson (now at Oregon State University), Linda Olsvig-Whittaker (now at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority) and Kerry Woods (now at Bennington College).

Whittaker married biochemist Clara Buehl (then a coworker at Hanford Laboratories) in 1952. Their children are John Whittaker (b. 1953, now a Professor of Anthropology at Grinnell College), Paul Whittaker (b. 1955, formerly an ecologist/entomologist; now an abstract artist and photographer in Evanston, Illinois) and Carl Whittaker (b. 1957, a natural history illustrator and professional chef in Ithaca, New York).
Clara was diagnosed with cancer in 1972; her health deteriorated and she died December 31, 1976. Whittaker married graduate student Linda Olsvig in 1979, but was himself diagnosed with lung cancer; he died October 20, 1980.