James Watson, Thomas Caskey, Svante Pääbo, and E.O. Wilson speak at the University of Chicago

First Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Conference in Human Genetics, and 3rd annual Watson Lecture, bring four renowned biologists to campus

December 4, 1998

The first Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Conference in Human Genetics will bring three world-renowned scholars--James Watson, Thomas Caskey, and Svante Pääbo--to campus on Friday, December 4, 1998 to discuss what DNA can tell us about the present, the past, and the future. Following the conference, the University of Chicago Medal will be presented to conference speaker James Watson in honor of his enormous contributions to our understanding of genetics.

After that ceremony, another renowned scholar, Edward O. Wilson, PhD--the man whose elegant research on insect societies and pheromones set a new standard; creator of the field of sociobiology; winner of two Pulitzer Prizes; and author of the recent best-seller Consilience, which attempts to draw divergent sciences back together--will talk about "The Diversity of Life," in the third annual Jean Mitchell Watson Lecture, named in honor of James Watson's mother.

The conference, award ceremony, and lecture will all be held in the Max Palevsky Cinema, in the University's Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 East 59th Street. The Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Conference takes place from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The Watson Lecture will follow at 2 p.m.

The Conference speakers are three of the most important researchers in all of genetics. James Watson, PhD, a 1947 graduate of the University of Chicago, shared the 1962 Nobel Prize with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for the discovery of the structure of DNA. Their description of the now famous "double helix" helped explain both how DNA carries genetic messages and how it copies itself, allowing cells to divide and to create new organisms. Watson and colleagues' 1953 discovery is seen as perhaps the most important scientific discovery of the century, inspiring countless follow-up studies which have dominated the life sciences ever since.

C. Thomas Caskey, MD, president of the Merck Genome Research Institute and an adjunct professor at Baylor University, has been a pioneer in the search for disease-causing gene abnormalities and the development of new techniques of gene therapy. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, he is the recipient of numerous research and teaching awards. He has served as president of the American Society of Human Genetics and as a member of the advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy on mapping the human genome.

Svante Pääbo, PhD, a project leader for the German version of the Human Genome Project and founding director of the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, uses molecular-level analysis of DNA to study human evolution. He pioneered current techniques of recovering and analyzing ancient DNA from archeological and paleontological remains. His team has recently completed the first successful isolation of DNA from the dung of an extinct animal, a novel tool for understanding an ancient animal's environment.

Speakers for the Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Conference include:

  • 10:00 a.m., David Ledbetter, PhD, the Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Professor and Chair of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago, "Welcome;" followed by opening remarks from James Watson, PhD, President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • 10:15 a.m., C. Thomas Caskey, MD, senior vice president for research at Merck Research Laboratories, "Human Genetics into the Next Century"
  • 11:15 a.m., Svante Pääbo, Ph.D., Director of the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, and a professor at the University of Munich, "Ancient and Modern DNA as a Means to Study Human Origins"
  • 12:15 p.m., Lunch
  • 2:00 p.m., Presentation of the University of Chicago Medal to James Watson; followed by The Jean Mitchell Watson Lecture: Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Research Professor and Honorary Curator of Entomology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, on "The Diversity of Life"

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