Biochemist Cecile Pickart's election announced weeks
after her death
Two Johns Hopkins University faculty members have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, part of a class of 175 new academy fellows that also includes two former U.S. presidents and the chief justice of the United States, the academy announced Monday.
Announcement of the election of Johns Hopkins biochemist Cecile M. Pickart to the academy comes just weeks after her death April 5 at age 51. The professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health had suffered from kidney cancer.
She was accompanied into the academy by historian Jack Greene, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities Emeritus in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
Had Pickart lived, her election and Greene's would have brought to 39 the total of active Johns Hopkins members of the academy, which, according to Academy President Patricia Meyer Spacks, recognizes "individuals who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large."
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the academy said. It fellows have included intellectuals and influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 170 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners.
Other new fellows elected this year include former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Chief Justice John Roberts; the chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 commission, former Gov. Thomas Kean, R-N.J., and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.; director Martin Scorsese; conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; and leading scientists and scholars from across the nation. In addition to the 175 new fellows, 20 new foreign honorary members were elected.
Pickart focused her research on the role of ubiquitin, an essential protein involved in critical cellular processes, including the repair of DNA. Ubiquitin searches the body for damaged or misshapen proteins and signals them for destruction. The goal in understanding how ubiquitin works is to assist in the development of drugs for prevention or treatment of diseases including cancer, Parkinson's, Huntington's and Alzheimer's.
Greene, who focused on early American history, published 16 books, including Pursuits of Happiness (1988), which challenged the notion that American culture was largely a derivative of New England culture; Peripheries and Center (1986), which examined the foundations of governance in British America; and The Intellectual Construction of America (1993), which investigated the roots of the idea of America as an exceptional place.
Before his retirement, he was honored in 2000 by a three-day scholarly conference of former students from his more than 35 years at Johns Hopkins.
"During his years as a professor of early American history at Hopkins, Jack Greene trained more than 75 graduate students," said Gabrielle Spiegel, chair of the History Department at Johns Hopkins and acting dean of faculty in the Krieger School. Many of those students went on to become prominent historians themselves, she said.
"His influence is felt, therefore, in every corner of the country and throughout its research universities," Spiegel said.
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