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Scientific Community Honors Scientist
With Deep Roots in Science, AAAS
For the last 70 years, Philip H. Abelson, editor emeritus of the AAAS journal, Science, has pursued his passion for science and scientific research, often at the forefront of scientific discovery. His significant contributions, including 22 years as editor of Science were recognized during a symposium and dinner held October 21 at the Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C.
Alan I. Leshner, AAAS CEO and Executive Publisher of Science, underscored the significance of Abelson's contributions to science. "Philip Abelson has been with AAAS for over 40 years," Leshner told a group of more than 50 of Abelson's family, colleagues and admirers. "During his tenure as editor of Science, he took the journal to a new level of quality and prominence." According to Leshner, although Abelson's career is a long and distinguished one, "Phil only looks to the future. He is always looking to, and beyond, the leading edge of science and scientific research."
Nowhere is this more evident than in Abelson's organization of the AAAS's annual Advancing Science Seminar series. This year's seminar, Technology and the Promise of Health, held October 14, examined innovative technologies that show promise in delaying the diseases of aging, and in diagnosing and treating cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Abelson was a prominent player in shaping national science policy. He began his career in 1935 when he joined Ernest Lawrence's laboratory at Berkeley where he was the first to characterize fission products. In 1940, Abelson, along with Edwin McMillan, discovered the first transuranic element, neptunium. His liquid thermal diffusion process, developed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., was used as an initial step in enriching uranium for the first atomic bomb. After World War II, Abelson worked for several years with the Navy to adapt nuclear reactors for use as power plants in submarines, earning him the title of "father of the atomic submarine."
From 1962 to 1984 Abelson was editor of Science and from 1971 to 1978 he also served as President of the Carnegie Institution. Nationally, Abelson has been honored with many major awards. He is a recipient of the President's National Medal of Science, the Vannevar Bush Distinguished Public Service Award from the National Science Foundation, its highest honor; and the Science Achievement Award from the American Medical Association. In 1945, he received the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal.
The symposium and dinner, sponsored by the Agouron Institute and coordinated by Abelson's nephew, Agouron's President John Abelson, paid homage to all that Abelson has accomplished in his ninety years. His life-long interestsin physics, chemistry, geology and biologywere reflected in the presentations of speakers at the symposium; their topics ranged from genetics to geology.
Mary Jane Williamson
24 October 2003