Pioneers in Science
Stanford Pioneers in Science is a quarterly series offering the public an opportunity to learn about the scientific contributions and lives of Stanford faculty members who have been awarded Nobel Prizes, National Medals of Science, National Medals of Technology, and MacArthur "Genius" Fellowships in scientific fields.
Each event consists of a presentation about the professional accomplishments of the featured scientist, an interview with the scientist, and Q&A with the audience. The following events take place at Cubberly Auditorium (School of Education) as wella as free and open to the public.
This series is your chance to engage with some of the most consequential thinkers of our day—people who have helped to shape the scientific, technological, and economic fabric of our modern world.
William F. Sharpe, the economist who won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in the theory of financial economics, including price formation for financial assets. A stock market guru and pioneer in the field financial economics and index funds, he originated the “Capital Asset Pricing Model” and developed the “Sharpe Ratio” for investment performance analysis. A presentation about Professor Sharpe’s contributions will be made by Stanford Professor Emeritus of Banking & Finance James Van Horne. (October 7, 2009)
William Durham, the anthropologist and human biologist who won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for his contributions to the theory of evolution in human population. His teaching and research are in the fields of ecology and evolution, interaction of genetic and cultural change in human populations, and the challenges to conservation and community development in the Third World. Presentation by Stanford Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Human Biology Russell Fernald. (November 4, 2009)
Douglas Osheroff, the physicist who won both a MacArthur “Genius” Award and a Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking research into the remarkable world of quantum fluids, solids, and glasses that exist at ultra-low temperatures hovering around near “absolute” zero. He discovered the superfluidity in helium-3 at a temperature of two thousandths of a degree above absolute zero. Presentation by Stanford Professor Emeritus of Physics and Applied Physics Alexander Fetter. (February 3, 2010)
Stanley N. Cohen, the geneticist who was awarded both the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology for co-inventing the technique of DNA cloning that allowed genes of different biological species to be transplanted and replicated in their newly combined states. This work was revolutionary, signaling the birth of genetic engineering and fueling the creation of the entire biotech industry. Presentation by Stanford Professor of Developmental Biology Lucille Shapiro. (March 10, 2010)
Patrick Suppes, the philosopher, educator, and statistician who won the National Medal of Science for his contributions to the philosophy of science, theory of measurement, foundations of quantum mechanics, decision theory, psychology, and educational technology. The “father of distance education,” Suppes’ research in the 1960’s using computers to teach math and reading to schoolchildren around the world led to his creation of Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) that has taught multi-media courses to some 50,000 K-12 students from 35 countries. Presentation by Economics Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow who was honored in last year’s Pioneers series. (April 21, 2010)
Roger Kornberg, the biochemist who won a 2006 Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering how DNA is converted in RNA. His work showed how genes communicate the information needed to make proteins, how cells express all of the information in the human genome, and how that expression sometimes goes awry, leading to cancer, birth defects, and other disorders. (Forty-seven years earlier his father, Arthur Kornbeg, also won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work with DNA). Presentation by Paul Berg, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Nobel Laureate who was honored in last year’s Pioneers series. (May 12, 2010)
2008–09 inaugural year honorees included:
Sidney Drell, a physicist who has been one of America’s most influential scientists in insuring nuclear peace throughout the world. Drell play crucial – but relatively unknown – roles advising U.S. presidents over the past 45 years about nuclear threats and disarmament, as well as pioneering development of space-based intelligence technologies He won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for his contributions to theoretical physics and international arms control. Presentation by Philip Taubman (October 21, 2008)
Robert Sapolsky, a biologist who studies the relationship of stress to neurological disease and the means by which stress causes damage to the brain of primates and humans. He won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for his research that revolutionized our understanding of physical and emotional stress. Presentation by former Stanford President and Biology Professor Donald Kennedy. (November 12, 2008)
Carl Djerassi, a chemist known as the “father of the birth control pill,” he also invented novel forms of insect controls, developed a broad class of antihistamines, founded and directed several biomedical companies, and later went on to become an internationally renowned author of fiction, plays, and poetry. He won the National Medal of Science for inventing the birth control pill and the National Medal of Technology for his novel and environmentally friendly approaches to pest control. Presentation by Chemistry Professor Paul Wender. (January 14, 2009)
Daphne Koller, a computer scientist and leader in the renaissance of artificial intelligence, she won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for her extraordinary advancements in the next generation of computer technology. She has developed new computational methods for representing information from “noisy” data that help unify a type of probability theory called Bayesian methods with relational logic. These contributions can be applied to very complex tasks and have important potential applications in such fields as biomedical research, commerce, and security. Presentation by Computer Science Professor Sebastian Thrun (February 11, 2009)
Burton Richter, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize for discovering a new subatomic particle, taking us a step closer to understanding the composition of the universe. He was a leading pioneer in the design and construction of experimental facilities for high energy physics and has been an advocate for promoting public understanding of science. His Nobel Prize was awarded for his discovery of a new elementary particle using equipment he had designed. Presentation by SLAC Director Persis Drell. (March 4, 2009)
Kenneth Arrow, pioneer who applied mathematics to the science of economics, his theory of economic equilibrium and his welfare theory provided the foundations for much of the practice of economics today. He won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to economic equilibrium theory and welfare theory. Presentation by Economics Professor John Shoven (April 15, 2009)
Paul Berg, a biochemist who won a Nobel Prize for his work in gene splicing and development of methods to map the structure and functions of DNA, laying the groundwork for recombinant DNA technology and the biotech revolution that followed. Presentation Presentation by Developmental Biology Professor Lucy Shapiro. (May 20, 2009)
The Stanford Pioneers in Science Series is sponsored by the Stanford Historical Society and Stanford Continuing Studies.
Previous lectures are available on Stanford iTunes and YouTube. Please visit itunes.stanford.edu.