Liberal arts is all about the greats. The great thinkers and writers in fields like humanities, philosophy, the arts and politics are all recognized by students studying at a great books college. But attending a liberal arts university in Chicago means you also have the advantage of living in a city that has produced some truly great scientists.
Let’s have a look at some of the more interesting Chicago additions to the canon of science, who students at liberal arts college in Chicago might come across in their degree.
Janet D. Rowley
A part-time researcher who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Janet D. Rowley was one scientist who got to hold that title. She began her career working from her kitchen table, and eventually discovered a causal link between genetic abnormalities and certain types of cancer in 1972.
At the time, the scientific community thought that cancer caused the abnormalities. Rowley, a lifetime affiliate of the University of Chicago, realized it was the other way around. At first, scientific journals wouldn’t publish her findings, but eventually she was able to prove them right. Rowley died of ovarian cancer in 2013, just four years after receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
Unlike Janet D. Rowley, Jean Piccard wasn’t born in the Windy City—in fact he grew up outside of America, in Basel, Switzerland. He did however do the majority of his best work in Chicago, and certainly left his mark on the city. He was a chemist, engineer and professor, but is most known for being a high-altitude balloonist and the one who designed the largest ever balloon for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933.
He is also the inventor of both the plastic balloon and frost-free windows for flight vehicles. Fun fact is that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, is rumoured to have used either Jean Piccard or his brother Auguste as inspiration for the character Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
William A. Reiners
Native Chicagoan William A. Reiners is responsible for deepening the foundations of ecological study, both conceptually and philosophically. His career has been up and running for over 50 years and in 2013, he was named Eminent Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America. While not all of his work was done in Chicago, the Windy City is where he famously got his start.
In the 1990s, a team in Scotland successfully cloned a sheep named Dolly. On the heels of that success, Dr. Richard Seed, a Harvard-educated physicist and a Chicago native, said that he would be the first to clone a human being. While he has yet to accomplish this goal, he was successful at sparking a national debate on the ethical implications of cloning a human, back in the late 1990s.
What do you think the city of Chicago has to offer to budding young scientists?