Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 2000
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APRIL 2000

E D I T O R' S    N O T E

On the Making of "Pioneers"

Readers, I should be frank with you from the start. The 50 Johns Hopkins pioneers we chose to highlight in this, our golden anniversary issue, were not selected in any scientific way. We did not conduct formal surveys or devise a ranking system. We did not correlate a story's length to the relative importance or "value" of a pioneer's contributions. And we did not follow a "scorecard," to make sure that every division (or gender, or age group, or discipline) within the university was fairly represented.

Here's what we did do: Spent months combing the university, talking with department heads and deans, archivists and historians. Scanned websites and scientific journals. Read through every back issue of our own magazine (nearly 300 issues). Chatted with alumni and current students. Sent hundreds of e-mail inquiries. Held countless staff meetings to hash out (and rehash) the merits of each candidate. Wrote haiku. Realized at the eleventh hour that we only had 49 pioneers (my lips are sealed as to the identity of the last-minute addition--and no, it wasn't #50). Wore out 10 pencil erasers making up-to-the-minute changes to our page plan. Snuck in lots of extra pioneers in stories like "First Cuts," an anatomical chart of pioneering surgical procedures, and "Where Mind Meets Brain," an account of the Mind/Brain Institute's origins.

The staff 2000: (l to r) Simpson, Keiger, Hendricks, Tsemach, and De Pasquale.

The result, we hope, is a wide-ranging potpourri of fascinating Hopkins people whose pathbreaking lives and work offer up particularly compelling stories. In some cases, we've hit upon the "little knowns"--like 1950s patient Henrietta Lacks, whose cells helped give rise to a new age in medicine. Or Otto Ortmann, who wrote the book on the physiology of piano playing. Some folks, by virtue of their far-reaching contributions, have been profiled in the Magazine's pages before; this time out we attempted to dig up some interesting new perspective. Ann Finkbeiner's story on AIDS expert John Bartlett, for instance, centers not on his medicine but on an unlikely--but telling-- friendship he struck up with gay rights activist Garey Lambert. Some whom we've covered exhaustively before are this time included in a succinct three or four paragraphs--which helps explain why Nobel Prize winners Dan Nathans and Hamilton Smith received one-seventh the space as others whose work is no more groundbreaking.

That said, I invite you to sit back, relax, and spend an hour or two (or three or four) with the 50 stories you find here. Flip to the back of the issue, and you'll find a quick look at the Magazine's own pioneering beginnings (we couldn't resist!)--and a special thanks to all of you who've so generously supported Johns Hopkins Magazine over the years.

If you would like to make the case for your own favorite pioneer who didn't make our final 50, please pick up a pen and jot me a note. Or visit the Magazine's website, where we've set up a guestbook designed to share your worthy suggestions.

We're proud to be a part of a university--and a magazine--with such rich pioneering tradition and promise. We hope you are, too.

Sue De Pasquale, Editor