Remarks by Jonathan Fanton at the Press Announcement of Science Chicago
July 29, 2008 | Speech

Good morning. I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. MacArthur is proud to support Science Chicago and excited by the possibilities it offers for the growth and renewal of our City.

Chicago is one of the world’s great centers of scientific endeavor and progress. This region has two national laboratories, some of the world’s best universities, and a depth of scientific talent few other centers can match — 75 Nobel Prize winners: 27 in Physics, 15 in Chemistry, 11 in Physiology or Medicine.

Our achievements in science and engineering have been remarkable. Chicago discovered the Top Quark, was the birthplace of the first controlled nuclear reaction, created carbon-14 dating, and developed the first effective treatment for malaria. We reversed the flow of a river, pioneered the architecture that created modern cities, and built the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.

Our business and corporate leaders too have led and encouraged innovation: the assembly-line, which revolutionized manufacturing, was invented here. The first commercially-built artificial kidney, car radios, and the cellular phone are among our accomplishments. Companies such as Boeing, Motorola, Abbot, and ITW continue that forward-looking tradition today, sponsoring vital research and its practical application.

Two years ago, Mayor Richard Daley and I discussed the need to reinvigorate the culture of science and research in Chicago, to engage and inform the public, and inspire the 700,000 children and teenagers who live in the City. We envisaged a year-long celebration for the City and its surrounding communities to place science firmly at the center of public attention.

That idea rapidly gathered momentum and energy. With outstanding leadership from David Mosena and the Museum of Science and Industry and the collaboration of more than 90 of Chicago’s leading institutions, the world’s largest science celebration has taken shape.

Science Chicago, a year of hundreds of inter-related activities and events, will reach out to people across our region. It will educate, inspire, and change lives. And we believe its effects will be felt long after the year is over. We hope to increase awareness of how science and technology have shaped Chicago, to underscore how essential science is to our everyday lives, and to emphasize the importance of strong and ambitious science programs and policies.

Science is central to the most pressing and controversial issues of our day – climate change, the search for new modes of energy, genetic modification and stem-cell research, to name a few. We look to scientists to describe, diagnose, and defuse the challenges that face America and the wider world.

But science is not only for specialists. It affects all of us, and deserves support from all of us. The public needs to know how science works, what we must do support its health and growth, and to understand the important practical and ethical issues it raises.

Central to this initiative is the need to encourage a new generation of scientists. Young people readily rise to the challenge and enjoyment of studying the natural world. When they are excited and energized by what they have learned, they move naturally to careers in science and research. Their talent, curiosity, and ambition are key to our continuing prosperity. If Chicago is to remain at the forefront of new knowledge and practical invention, we must equip and inspire young people interested in science and technology to be the researchers of tomorrow. That enterprise begins anew today.

The MacArthur Foundation has a long tradition of supporting originality and creativity, of nurturing ground-breaking research, and being oriented toward the future. Research we fund has helped society realize the positive aspects of growing older, is improving the fairness and effectiveness of America’s juvenile justice system, is finding ways to conserve threatened environments and species in a time of climate change, and illuminate threats from weapons of mass destruction and measures to make the world safer.

In supporting Science Chicago, MacArthur continues its mission to help individuals reach their full potential, build the institutions that enrich our common humanity, and look for solutions to persistent problems. We have faith in our home town and its continuing powers of renewal, abiding optimism that positive change is always possible, and great hopes for the future of our young people.

And it is now my pleasure to introduce one of America’s leading advocates for science and education, Dr. Walter Massey. He is a distinguished physicist, former director of the Argonne National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs in the University of California system, President of Morehouse College, and trustee of the MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Massey embodies the power of science and learning to transform individuals and societies.

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