Gazzaniga nominated for Dartmouth Trustee
The Dartmouth College Alumni Council has announced
that there are three vacancies on Dartmouthࢯard of trustees.
We have a special request that you submit a recommendation for one of the
three alumni-selected trustee positions.
The deadline for recommendations is November 1, 2011.
We suggest that you recommend Michael S. Gazzaniga ᠢy sending his name
to the Alumni Council Nominating Committee.
Nominations should be submitted by email to:
Alternatively, you can send your suggestion by mail to:
Dartmouth Office of Alumni Relations
6068 Blunt Alumni Center
Hanover, NH 03755
Mike Gazzaniga ᠩs a professor of psychology at the
University of California, Santa Barbara, where he heads the new SAGE Center
for the Study of the Mind. He is one of the leading researchers in cognitive
neuroscience, the study of the neural basis of mind.
For a few years, he was Dean of the Faculty at Dartmouth College. Most
recently, in June 2011, he received an Honorary Degree at Dartmouth College.
His very good speech on that occasion is here on the HANOVER INSTITUTE
website, it deals with the importance of a Liberal Arts education.
Remarks by Michael S. Gazzaniga Ἧspan>
At the Dartmouth dinner for Honorary Degree recipients June 2011
There is nothing quite like coming home and what an honor it is for me
tonight. I have experienced Dartmouth being my home in many, many ways.
First as a student, then as a parent, then as a faculty member at DMS and
finally as a Professor and Dean of the Faculty at the College. Each
experience has been meaningful. As I have served Dartmouth, Dartmouth as
nourished my family and me.
I have one thought I would like to leave you with tonight. I believe our
goal should be to protect our Colleges and Universities from being
overwhelmed by the practical problems of the world. College should be
protected time. -- a time for envisioning and learning how to think.
Most of our lives are given over to the practical and
that is good and necessary. But there has to be a time in our lives where we
are exposed to, and learn how, to see and appreciate problems from different
Scientists when asked to explain how they came up with
such and such idea frequently fall into the trap of claiming how their super
rational minds were driven to particular conclusions per force of their
data. There has to be some truth in that.
Yet, psychologists who study these matters point out that from Poincare to
Watson and Crick, metaphors gained from outside their scientific discipline
when applied to their problems, sprang open their minds to the data driven
truths sitting in front of them. Guttenberg figured out how to print one
letter but didne its full potential until he saw a grape press one
weekend when he visited a country inn.
We live in an age where the overwhelming problems in the world are invading
the very time when one is trying to learn how to think. The problem is,
being familiar with problems is one thing. Having the capacity to solve them
is quite different. How to think involves the collision of metaphors upon
metaphors and that only comes about by getting around, by having a broad
liberal arts education.
We hear the call for the practical, for translational research all the time
and in doing so we fail to heed the observation of those who came before us
like the great physiologist, Hermann von Helmholtz who said:
该ver in the pursuit of science, seeks after immediate practical
utility, may rest assured that he seeks in vain쯥m>
An example comes from brilliant work of Karl Disseroft at Stanford. He was
following a charge of Francis Crick that neuroscience must figure out how to
turn on and off the neurons of the brain in particular structure and at
precise times, if we are to understand how the brain works. No one had the
slightest idea how to do that. Then, Disseroft, a psychiatrist, noticed that
chemicals crucial in the life of the green algae, Chlamydomonas
reinhardtii, commonly known as pond scum might be the trick. This Algae
contain light-sensitive proteins called opsins that act as tiny gatekeepers,
regulating the flow of charged ions across cell membranes. Bingo! He got it.
All he has to do is to get those proteins into specific brain cells, turn
different color lights on around them and he turns on off discrete parts of
The result is, and this discovery is only 5 years old, that combining that
finding with laser technology find him able to turn never circuits deep in
the brain on and off. Parkinsonऩsease, and a host of other diseases are
suddenly approachable. None of this would have happened if someone many
years before Diessorft had not followed through on a simple curiosityᮠ
interest in algae. This advance is the hottest discovery in neuroscience.
So it is ideas that matter. It is ideas that open up the dark parts of the
world and they come from broad exposure. We need our leading institutions
like Dartmouth to continue to nurture how to pursue ideas for their own sake
because they are intriguing. More often than not, their utility will come
years later and in unexpected ways. It is a tough and expensive assignment.
Yet, as we all know, it is ideas that have consequences.
Dartmouth launched me down this path and I am forever grateful. She did it
for me for my brother and his sons and my daughters. Stay true to your
mission, Dartmouth. Help generate light where there is only darkness. Many,
Friday October 21, 2011
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