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Wholly Hopkins
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


Humanities: Scholar Curates Egypt Show

Hospital: Dozen Years in Top Spot for Hopkins Hospital

Libraries: Library Star Joins Hopkins

Engineering: Dean Busch-Vishniac to Step Down

Medicine: Grading on a New Curve

University: VP Will Work to Strengthen Relations Between Hopkins, Wider Community

Medicine: Temkin's Thoughtful Legacy

Technology: Inventive Device Within Researchers' Grasp

Astronomy: Planet Pluto or Kuiper Belt King?

Sports: Blue Jays Rack Up Lacrosse Honors

University: Unearthing House's True Age

Alumni: A Classic Affinity for South Africa

Wholly Hopkins Departments: Bottom Line | Here & Abroad | Syllabus | Academese | Up & Comer | Findings | JHUniverse | Vignette | Datebook | Forever Altered | Vital Signs |

Scholar Curates Egypt Show

When "The Treasures of Tutankhamen" opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the public responded by coming in such numbers -- 836,000 in Washington, 8 million throughout the seven-city tour -- that the mere attendance figures were news. Twenty-six years later, the Egyptians are back. At the end of June, the National Gallery opened "The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt," a show twice as large, and the biggest collection of antiquities ever sent to the United States by Egypt.

"Quest for Immortality" was curated by Betsy M. Bryan, chair of Hopkins' Department of Near Eastern Studies. The exhibit's 115 artifacts -- including statues, jewelry, painted coffins, tomb furnishings, a stunning solid gold funerary mask, and a full-size (eight feet long), 3,400-year-old model boat from the tomb of Amenhotep II -- date from the New Kingdom (1500-1069 B.C.E.) through the Late Period (664-332 B.C.E.). Bryan, who holds the Alexander Badawy chair in Egyptian art and archaeology, is one of the world's experts on the New Kingdom.

Betsy Bryan in January at the Temple of the Goddess Mut at Karnak in Luxor, Egypt. Bryan and her team of students were excavating portions of the site for a second year.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer
"The Quest for Immortality" brings together a much wider variety of objects than the King Tut show and has more scholarly ambition: to examine the complex religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, especially as they pertain to the afterlife. Says Bryan, "The Egyptians had a very well-developed and complicated view of the afterlife. Though the show is about mummies and coffins etc., all of those things were intended to help the person have eternal life, in a quite literal sense. What we'd like to do is move the conversation on from looking at mummies to thinking about the Egyptians as people with a consciousness of a continuing life."

Bryan spent months shuttling to Egypt to select artifacts. Simultaneously, she had to marshal the preparation of the show's catalog. She was given only eight months to produce the 256-page book: to decide what text was needed, select experts to write it, collect their submissions, edit the text, and oversee composition of the book. Bryan's tight deadline provided opportunity for some of her graduate students. Four of them -- Elaine Sullivan, Elizabeth Waraksa, Yasmin El Shazly, and Fatma Ismail -- wrote catalog entries. Other students working on the project included Tammy Krygier, who wrote the catalog's index and glossary, and Kathlyn Cooney, who worked on a promotional brochure and some of the show's wall texts. Thirty of the catalog's images are the work of Hopkins photographer Jay VanRensselaer.

Bryan's labors didn't end there. She also participated in the production of a video for the show, traveling to Egypt with the videographer and director to help identify what should be filmed, and later working on the script. She edited copy for the exhibit's brochures, and took part in writing the wall texts and object labels. "The curator really has to be responsible for the content of everything," she says, "and the National Gallery takes that very seriously. They wanted to be sure it was correct."

Gold funerary mask of Wenudjebauendjed, 21st Dynasty, reign of Psusennes I, 1039-991 B.C.E., collection of The Egyptian Museum, Cairo. "Quest for Immortality" occupies two floors of the National Gallery and includes a reproduction of the tomb of pharaoh Thutmose III, reconstructed in its full dimensions, 50 feet long by 29 feet wide. Says Bryan, "I was totally skeptical about the making of this thing. [But] when they sent us a sample back in December, we were all just amazed. It just looks exactly like the original, it really does. It's really excellent."

Though reluctant to diminish the entirety of the show by selecting specific items as most noteworthy, Bryan says, "I think the object on the cover of the catalog, a small statue of the god Osiris as a mummy in the act of resurrection [top photo], is probably the most significant. It directly relates to Egyptian notions of the afterlife, not just what they put in their tombs but what they thought was going to happen to them afterward. This is a piece that has been in the Cairo museum's collection forever, but that no one, scholars or anyone else, is familiar with. It's remarkably beautiful."

Osiris resurrecting, gneiss statue from the 26th Dynasty, 664- 525 B.C.E., collection of The Egyptian Museum, Cairo. The artifacts are the cultural heritage of what is now an Islamic country. Bryan says the political situation post-September 11 was not a problem for her work. "This is something the Egyptian government wanted to be involved in," she says. "I was in Egypt the first week of last October and again in November and December, and if anything, the Egyptian curators were bending over backward to be helpful because I think they were all so upset over what had happened."

About the broad public appeal of shows like "Quest for Immortality," Bryan says, "I think it's because so much has survived. Most any city in the Western world has an Egyptian collection. People are really taken by the fact that all this stuff is still around to look at. In a sense, it makes them think that the Egyptians had it right in some way, that they really did get some sort of immortality out of this."

"The Quest for Immortality" will be at the National Gallery through October 14. It then goes on the road for five years, with stops in Boston, New Orleans, Denver, and Houston. -- Dale Keiger

Dozen Years in Top Spot for Hopkins Hospital

"Wow!" noted a clearly delighted Hopkins Medicine CEO Edward Miller, upon learning in July that Hopkins Hospital had been ranked top in the nation -- for the 12th year in a row -- in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of American hospitals. In addition to once again leading the honor roll (Mayo Clinic nabbed the number 2 spot), Hopkins ranked in the top 10 in 16 of the 17 specialty categories listed. Four Hopkins specialties earned number 1 honors: ear, nose, and throat; gynecology; urology; and eye care.

Library Star Joins Hopkins

Winston Tabb's tenure as Hopkins' dean of university libraries and director of the Sheridan Libraries was set to begin in early September, but his reputation preceded him by several months. When Tabb's appointment was announced earlier in the summer, Hopkins professor Stephen Nichols, chairman of the search committee that recommended Tabb, described him as "the Michael Jordan of librarians."

How's that for high expectations?

Winston Tabb, former associate librarian at the Library of Congress, is the new dean of university libraries at Hopkins.
Photo by Kaveh Sardari
Tabb comes to Hopkins after 29 years at the Library of Congress. His last position was associate librarian, more or less the top position after the librarian of Congress. He established a reputation there, say former colleagues, for extraordinary curiosity, excellent diplomatic skills, and a broad knowledge of the Library of Congress' traditional collections combined with an up-to-the-minute understanding of digital media. His creative leadership was recognized by the American Library Association, which awarded him the 1998 Melvil Dewey Medal, one of its highest honors.

Nichols, chairman of Hopkins' Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, directed for two years a national library task force seeking a blueprint for dealing with an ever-widening array of traditional analog and newer digital material. "We had a major international committee," he says. "Winston was our eminence grise. He couldn't formally be on the committee, but a lot of stuff came from him, and it was clear that all the librarians just thought he was god. He's just incredibly innovative."

When asked how his new job will differ from his old one, Tabb says, "Partially, I have no idea, which is part of the appeal: I'll be learning something new. But the Hopkins library is much smaller, which will make it possible to have much more agility, and the ability to move in a quick and entrepreneurial way, which is very different from the government."

Tabb foresees several challenges in his new position, which includes overseeing libraries at Hopkins' many schools and centers, and the Sheridan Libraries, encompassing the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and its collections at the Hutzler Reading Room, Evergreen House's Garrett Library, and the George Peabody Library.

"All libraries like Hopkins' have to continue to collect print materials, as libraries have always done," he says, "while at the same time we have to start acquiring more of the electronic things." He'll be involved in fostering new initiatives at Hopkins like the Digital Hammurabi Project, to produce a portable, high-resolution scanner that can scan all facets of cuneiform tablets and establish an international digital cuneiform library, and the effort to digitize the more than 29,000 pieces of music in Hopkins' Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music.

Tabb notes that for much of the electronic material, the library ends up not owning it, but licensing it. That means business negotiations of a sort that didn't take place 15 years ago. "There's really this requirement to become more than just a librarian," Tabb says. "I sometimes tell people that if I were starting over again to be a good librarian, I might want to go either to law school or business school." -- DK

Dean Busch-Vishniac to Step Down

Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering, has decided to step down at the end of her five-year term to dedicate more time to research, family, and a prestigious professional leadership post.

Busch-Vishniac, the third dean of the Whiting School and its first woman leader, will serve through June 30, 2003. She will then remain at Hopkins as a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Dean Ilene Busch-Vishniac "Dean Busch-Vishniac's dedicated leadership as the third dean of the Whiting School has yielded extraordinary results," Hopkins President William R. Brody noted in a university-

wide announcement. "The school today is stronger, larger, more diverse, and better supported than when she arrived in 1998." Though Brody expressed regret at her departure, he welcomed Busch-Vishniac's continued role "as a highly valued member of our faculty." A national search is being launched for her successor.

Busch-Vishniac was recently elected president of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), a major professional society in her discipline. She will take office next year. In 2001, Busch-Vishniac won the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics from the society, the highest technical merit awarded by the group. "Acoustics doesn't necessarily grab the attention of the lay public," notes Busch-Vishniac, whose research focuses on electromechanical devices. "But we cover everything from the highly technical, such as wave propagation, to musical acoustics. We even had the Grateful Dead show up at one of our meetings."

Although she looks forward to her leadership role with the ASA, as well as to spending time with her two teen-age daughters, Cady and Miriam, Busch-Vishniac says she's proud of what the school has accomplished during her tenure. "It has been a wonderful experience being dean of a school the caliber of the Whiting School of Engineering," she says. "After four years, with a fifth year looming, I've come to terms with the idea that there's simply no way I am going to shake loose the time to focus on the things normal faculty do, such as teaching and research. The only way that will happen is if I let someone else take the reins of a school that, as we in engineering say, is firing on all cylinders."

While serving as Whiting School dean, Busch-Vishniac is credited with helping attract more research funding, which rose from $34.4 million in 1998 to nearly $51 million in 2002. She also has emphasized aggressive recruitment of students and faculty. Undergraduate engineering enrollment has risen more than 20 percent from fall 1998, hitting 1,655 in fall 2001. The school also has added such offerings as a new major in environmental engineering, being launched this fall.

To foster ground-breaking research, the Whiting School also has increased the number of research centers from nine in 1998 to 16, including the interdisciplinary Information Security Institute, which focuses on such areas as computer law and criminology, database confidentiality, and e-commerce security.

Another highly ranked center, the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute, pulls together faculty from the Whiting School and the School of Medicine to tackle research in such areas as computer simulation of human organ systems, artificial tissue design, and new cell-based ways to deliver drug and gene therapies. -- JCS

Illustration by Mike McConnell Medicine
Grading on a New Curve

Among medical students, it's no secret that academic life at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine can be highly competitive. Witness the school's 13-interval grading system. Long after prestigious medical schools at Duke, Penn, Yale, and Stanford had switched to a pass/fail system, Hopkins students were still agonizing over the merits of a B+ vs. an A-.

No more. Last spring, the Advisory Board of the Medical Faculty officially adopted a new four-tier grading system: honors, high pass, pass, or fail. The new system was rolled out last April for students in years two through four; beginning this fall, it will encompass medical students in all four years.

"At Hopkins, the caliber of student is so high that we frankly are not expecting remedial work from anyone," says the school's vice dean for education David Nichols, who was the impetus for change. "The focus really has to be [on] encouraging students to dream about the possibilities they can make in medicine. An overly dissecting grading system defeats that purpose."

Nichols notes also that excessive competition is antithetical to the mission of "modern medicine, which is very much dependent on a team effort -- on collaboration and cooperation. It shouldn't be 'me against you.' It's all of us working together trying to improve the conditions of people who are sick."

Nichols became concerned in recent years by the large number of applicants who originally listed Johns Hopkins as their top choice but later chose another medical school. Hopkins surveyed 129 such applicants and of the 62 who responded, most supplied two major reasons for switching allegiance: insufficient financial aid, and the grading system. Says Nichols, "Students who were good candidates chose other schools due to a perception of [Hopkins] having an excessively competitive environment."

According to statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, about 50 percent of schools now use three grading segments or fewer. At Hopkins, some committee members on the Medical Faculty Advisory Board argued for a change to pass/fail. The majority believed, however, that the more descriptive four-tier format would serve Hopkins students better as they compete for residency slots. Traditionally, Hopkins medical graduates have fared well in landing their first choices for residency, in part because residency directors could look at their transcripts and make detailed comparisons.

Hand in hand with the change in grading structure will come an increased emphasis on narrative critique and review -- until now a cumbersome paper-based process that few professors were using to full advantage. A new electronic system, due to go online this academic year, should streamline the process considerably, making it simpler for nearly all instructors to write up descriptive commentary on a student's performance (taking into account cognitive skills, communication, interpersonal skills, manual dexterity, etc.) Copies will go to the Dean's Office, as well as to students, who will be invited to respond, says Nichols, so that "a dialogue can take place." -- SD

VP Will Work to Strengthen Relations Between Hopkins, Wider Community

Linda L. Robertson, a former senior U.S. Treasury official, has been appointed vice president of government, community, and public affairs at Hopkins -- a post newly created to enhance the university's ties with city, state, and federal governments and the community, as well as broader audiences both nationally and internationally. Robertson, 47, was set to begin work September 3.

In announcing the appointment, Hopkins President William R. Brody said the university and its surrounding communities "depend enormously on each other," adding, "I believe very strongly, for instance, that Johns Hopkins' success is tied inextricably to Baltimore's, and vice versa."

Linda L. Robertson
Photo by Will Kirk
Robertson will direct government and community relations staff at the university and at Hopkins Medicine, as well as the communications and public affairs department in the university's central administration.

Robertson, who had served as vice president of federal relations at Enron Corp. from November 2000 until last February when the Washington office was closed, most recently has been of counsel at the law firm of Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky.

She joined the Treasury Department in 1993 as deputy assistant secretary and was promoted to assistant secretary and senior adviser before leaving in 2000. During those years, she played a key role in securing congressional approval for an $18 billion commitment to the International Monetary Fund, helped secure billions in debt relief for developing nations, and coordinated Treasury efforts to win congressional approval of restructuring the Internal Revenue Service. She was awarded Treasury's top honor, the Alexander Hamilton Award.

The Oklahoma native, who has worked on Capitol Hill and at several Washington law firms, earned her law degree from the University of Tulsa and a master's of law degree in taxation from Georgetown.

Temkin's Thoughtful Legacy

"Old age is not without its compensations. The freedom from the hustle and bustle of life and the reduced nightly sleep allow more time for thinking, and if one's reflections turn to one's own past activities, they may lead to second thoughts."
--Owsei Temkin, On Second Thought and Other Essays in the History of Medicine and Science
Owsei Temkin, who would have marked his 100th birthday this October, died of heart failure in July as Hopkins was preparing to honor the man and his legacy. After more than 70 years on the faculty, the medical historian was still publishing.

In his final collection, On Second Thought (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), Temkin, a William H. Welch Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine, took the time to look back on a remarkably vast career that included a 10-year directorship of the Hopkins Institute of the History of Medicine, as well as a 20-year editorship of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, one of the premier journals in the field.

"He was one of the leading classicists in the field of Greek and Roman medicine," notes Arthur Silverstein, Hopkins professor emeritus of ophthalmic immunology.

Throughout the 20th century, in fact, Temkin helped establish the academic professionalism of a field once the purview of physicians-cum-amateur historians. He published hundreds of essays and several books, arguing passionately and patiently that the history of medicine is interwoven with modern science and culture, and should be taught and analyzed.

Temkin was one of the last living links to Hopkins giants such as William H. Welch. "He put forth the view that ancient medicine, or any aspect of the history of medicine, can really speak to the concerns of physicians at any time, including today," says Gert H. Brieger (PhD '68), a Hopkins distinguished service professor, former Welch professor, and current co-editor of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine. "But this is not an ivory tower kind of scholar. He watched medical TV shows like [Marcus] Welby in the 1960s with interest, and took part in medical school advisory boards."

As one of the university's most distinguished scholars, Temkin also was one of the last living links to the era of Hopkins founders, having worked alongside William H. Welch, who helped to launch the hospital and schools of medicine and public health. As a young historian, Temkin was lured to the university in the early 1930s by Henry Sigerist, renowned Swiss medical historian and an early director of the Hopkins Institute of the History of Medicine.

The institute is sponsoring a symposium on Temkin Oct. 5 on the East Baltimore campus. A series of speakers influenced by Temkin's work, including former students and scholars from across the country, will be giving talks on his contributions to the field. Among his legacies: seminal scholarship on the history of diseases such as epilepsy, and the changing moral and social attitudes toward those who suffer from such diseases; numerous writings that emphasize the role of the humanities in medicine; and decades of analysis of medical ethics, including the development of the idea of respect for life as a tenet of medicine.

Temkin, who spoke or read several languages -- including German, English, Russian, ancient Greek and Latin, and Arabic -- was born in Minsk, then part of Russia. He and his family, who were Jewish, moved to Germany, where he earned his medical degree from the University of Leipzig in 1927. After studying under Sigerist in the mid-1920s, Temkin switched careers to the history of medicine. When Sigerist took over the Institute of the History of Medicine in 1932 from Welch, he brought Temkin on as a lecturer.

Over the years, Temkin became one of Hopkins' most beloved professors, conveying to thousands of medical and public health students a sense of awe and inquiry about ancient Greek medicine, the fountainhead of modern medical practice. The true meaning of the Hippocratic Oath would intrigue him to his final days, meriting an essay in On Second Thought.

Notes Randall M. Packard, a current Welch Professor and chair of the Hopkins Department of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, "Dr. Temkin has been an amazing guy who has taught several generations."

In his last years Temkin suffered from various ailments, yet continued to produce scholarly articles and books. And he never lost the sharp wit and intelligence that fueled an ebullient spirit. In On Second Thought's opening chapter, he noted that as he grew older, he could reflect on "historic" eras he had witnessed. Having lived in Germany under the democratic Weimar Republic, Temkin noted that younger scholars often speak about the "Weimar culture." He wrote, "I sometimes have the impression of dealing with people who speak learnedly about roses without ever having smelled one."

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as many international history of medicine societies, Temkin also was the recipient of numerous honors, including the Sarton Medal, awarded by the History of Science Society, and the Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in the Humanities from the American Council of Learned Societies.

His essays reflect a probing and never-quite-satisfied mind. In On Second Thought, he noted that as medicine becomes more corporate, "compassion is in danger of becoming a luxury that not everybody can afford." He wrote that such observations are not criticisms per se, but that doctors' views of their relationship to the sick are evolving: "For better or for worse, if this trend continues it may end by producing doctors who think of themselves as persons engaged in a business and who feel and act accordingly."

For the past few years, Silverstein got weekly glimpses of Temkin's mind at work. During talks at Temkin's Baltimore retirement home, the two men debated world politics and history over dark German beer Silverstein had brewed.

Silverstein says Temkin was a man who harbored strong views, yet always remained open to learning. "He leaves a legacy of hard work, dedication, and devotion and sets the example of somebody who was honest in his work, all his life." -- JCS

The device responds to voice commands.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer
Inventive Device Within Researchers' Grasp

People who lose muscle control in their hands find the grasping or holding of objects a frustrating experience -- one in which they wish they could simply tell their fingers what to do. Soon, they might be able to, using an invention being developed by Hopkins engineering students.

By adapting speech-recognition software -- as well as a 12-volt rechargeable battery, two small motors, and plastic braces inspired by science fiction -- three Hopkins seniors designed and built a "muscle enhancement device" to help a disabled man lift and hold a book, cup, and other household items.

Jonathan Hofeller '02, Christina Peace '02, and Nathaniel Young '02 hard-wired their device to a portable control box containing a miniature computer. After the software is trained to the user's voice, commands such as "open," "close," and "stop" instruct the motors how to move connected plastic-and-wire braces strapped on the arm and hand, essentially an exoskeleton augmenting the user's muscles. (The students took their cue from props in the film Aliens.)

The unique device, designed over two semesters in the Senior Design Project course in the Whiting School of Engineering, was developed for a client of Volunteers for Medical Engineering (VME), a nonprofit group that uses technology to help people with disabilities. VME works regularly with Hopkins engineering students on such projects. The client suffers from a rare degenerative muscle disorder called inclusion body myositis. The device is still being refined, but could hold promise for others with similar disabilities. -- JCS

Courtesy JHU APL/SWRI Astronomy
Planet Pluto or Kuiper Belt King?

As astronomers continue a heated debate about whether Pluto should be yanked from the planetary lineup, researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory are hoping to answer questions about the diminutive planet by sending a spacecraft to the far edge of the solar system.

Last December, NASA selected APL to build a spacecraft for and manage the New Horizons mission, which seeks to study Pluto and the recently discovered Kuiper Belt, a loose collection of icy-rocky bodies of which Pluto may be the largest. The mission could be key in classifying Pluto and in determining the significance of the Kuiper Belt, which Hopkins researchers suggest may be a third major region of the solar system.

If funding comes through for the project -- it was missing from President Bush's FY 2003 budget for NASA and would have to be restored by Congress this fall -- the long trip to Pluto could begin in 2006.

Because of Pluto's small size -- just two-thirds the size of our moon -- and tremendous distance from Earth, studying it remains difficult. Pluto orbits the sun at 60 astronomical units; one astronomical unit equals the distance from the Earth to the sun, or about 93 million miles. Even the Hubble Space Telescope can't discern anything on Pluto's surface. NASA sent two Voyager spacecraft in the late 1970s to explore the four giant gas planets closest to Pluto, but no spacecraft has been near enough to Pluto to answer some of the most basic questions.

The trip to Pluto will take 10 years. Once at Pluto, the craft's science goals include taking surface images at a resolution of about one-half mile. "This will allow us to distinguish major types of terrain," says APL's Andy Cheng, project scientist for New Horizons. Special instruments will gather information on the geology, interior makeup, and atmosphere of Pluto and its moon, Charon, before the next five-year leg of the journey to reach one or more Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBOs.

The discovery of the first KBOs in 1992 and the realization that Pluto shares an orbital timing with these bodies caused astronomers to revisit the issue of what constitutes a planet. Among those who believe that Pluto more correctly belongs to the group of KBOs is astronomer Paul Feldman, chairman of Hopkins' physics and astronomy department. "I would go along with the people who would remove Pluto from the list of planets," he says, "and then it becomes the largest of another class of objects."

But the issue is so heated among astronomers that the International Astronomical Union, which has authority over such matters, postponed indefinitely all discussions on Pluto and official planet definitions in January 1999. At that meeting, a proposal to grant dual status to Pluto as both a planet and a Kuiper Belt Object was debated but not adopted. "Many IAU members came down on the side of not changing Pluto's status, mainly for historical reasons," says planetary astronomer Keith Noll at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who participated in the IAU discussions. "In astronomy, we've inherited all sorts of things that if you were redefining now it would be different."

In the meantime, Cheng says that the discovery of the KBOs means we may need to redefine the solar system into three distinct regions: the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), the gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), and the Kuiper Belt, with Pluto the largest of potentially thousands of icy-rocky objects.

If funding is approved, the New Horizons spacecraft will be built at APL at a bargain price for such an ambitious mission -- just $488 million. Since smaller spacecraft tend to cost less to launch, the entire New Horizons spacecraft body is designed to fit beneath a 6-foot communications dish and will carry a number of miniaturized instruments weighing no more than a few pounds each. Further savings will be realized by using a conventional chemical propulsion engine to get the craft to Pluto.

The complicated maneuvers and distance of the mission combine to make New Horizons high-risk and serve as another reason to keep the costs down -- in case of failure. But mission director Robert Farquhar at APL asserts that all spacecraft systems will have backups. A Pluto enthusiast, Farquhar (now in his late 60s) plans to be on the job for the flyby of Pluto in 2016. "Mission [plans] cite that I may retire sometime during the cruise to Pluto, but I have no plans to retire. [It should say] 'Farquhar may expire sometime on the way out to Pluto,'" he says with a chuckle.

This fall, funding hurdles are eclipsing the risks of the mission itself. Unless Congress acts directly to restore money to NASA's budget for the mission, it will be shelved, although NASA insists a mission still could be funded as early as a year from now.

But a one-year delay at this juncture could mean losing the chance to study Pluto's atmosphere. Because Pluto's atmosphere collapses during its orbit as it reaches a certain distance from the sun, researchers believe a 2006 launch is the latest possible time to leave Earth; after 2016, they predict, it will be another 200 years before the atmosphere thaws and re-forms. "The timing is just too critical to horse around for a year," says Alan Stern, New Horizon's principal investigator and director of space studies at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Still, Stern and other mission researchers remain optimistic. "I think we're going to get the funding," Stern says, "and we're going to fly this mission."

On a more philosophical note, astronomers agree that the debate about Pluto and its similarities to the KBOs has been good for public understanding. "Planets vs. small bodies, and which bin they go in, may not be important to decide," says STScI's Noll. "It's educational for people to know that it isn't easy to define, and to talk about why."

Stern is among those already calling Pluto "King of the Kuiper Belt." "There are a number of strong arguments that we will find not only 'Plutos' in large numbers, but larger objects as well, farther out," says Stern."It's just the way the solar system formation worked -- it should have produced a lot of these objects." -- Diana Whitman

Goalie of the year Nick Murtha
Photo by Rob Brown
Blue Jays Rack Up Lacrosse Honors

The consensus among the men's lacrosse cognoscenti last March was that the Hopkins Blue Jays had too many freshmen and sophomores (25 out of 40 players on the roster) and too few seniors (only seven) to contend for the national championship. Apparently, the Jays learn fast. They ended their regular season ranked first in the nation and advanced to the national championship semifinals before losing to Princeton, 11-9.

Head coach Dave Pietramala was named national coach of the year. Senior Nick Murtha, who before this season had never started a collegiate game, won honors as NCAA Division I goalie of the year and first-team All-American.

P.J. DiConza, senior defenseman, was the only men's Division I lacrosse player in the country to receive a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. The academic All-American graduated last May with a sociology degree and a 3.62 GPA. -- DK

Unearthing House's True Age

Owen House, a modest two-story farmhouse near the Hopkins Club on the Homewood campus, was poised to live out its final days in relative obscurity. An 11th-hour discovery, however, granted the building a brief moment in the spotlight, a two-week period during which it held the title of oldest building at Homewood.

Over the years the building -- known by many as the "White House" -- had served as home to a long list of programs. Believed to have been built in 1850, it was slated to come down on July 8 to make way for a new chemistry building.

Architectural historian Ken Short and archaeologist Esther Doyle Read evaluate the site before the Owen House demolition.
Photo by Will Kirk
But shortly before its scheduled demolition, architect and historian Peter Pearre, a regular consultant to Homewood House, walked by and had a hunch that there was more to this structure than met the eye. Together with Homewood House curator Catherine Rogers Arthur and Homewood House program coordinator Judith Proffitt, he took a closer look. The real "aha" moment came when the trio opened the cellar door. On one side of the stair were wide wooden planks fixed to support beams by wrought-iron rosehead nails.

"It was quite clear right away that we were looking at an original exterior wall," Pearre said. "And those planks and nails were typical 18th-century materials, not mid-19th." Delighted by the discovery, Pearre and Arthur managed to get the demolition date pushed back by two days and secured permission to have unlimited 24-hour access to the building. Then they pulled together a team of local experts who worked day and night to map out the dimensions of the original building and to attempt to determine its age.

"The more we uncovered, the more our suspicions were confirmed that this house was older than previously thought," Pearre said. He now estimates the construction date for the original house to be around 1750.

The Owen House facade, which covered an earlier 18th-century building Items discovered along the way included a 1790 coin, some turn-of-the-century postcards, mid-19th-century initials carved in plaster, and the 1911 baseball card of George F. "Peaches" Graham, a catcher with the Boston Nationals.

In research off-site, Marsha Miller from the Maryland Historical Trust uncovered a 1798 Baltimore tax assessment that listed on the Homewood property a house that matched the dimensions they had just mapped, and Arthur found a letter written by Charles Carroll of Carrollton to his son Charles Carroll Jr. about the property he had bought for him to use as a country retreat.

"Clearly this house did not meet [the younger] Mr. Carroll's requirements, so he decided to build his own," Arthur said with a grin, referring to the grand Federal-style mansion that is now Homewood House.

Noting the wealth of information the team managed to extract before July 10, Arthur said, "When it's all said and done, we will end up with a very complete record and learn about Owen House even in its absence. As for the oldest building on campus now, I guess Homewood House [completed in 1806] has regained that title." -- Greg Rienzi

A Classic Affinity for South Africa

Sarah Ruden (MA '99), pictured at right, works as a contributor and editor for noseweek, a feisty muckraking magazine in South Africa. Her primary academic training, though, was as a classicist; her new translation of Lysistrata has just been staged in Namibia with African actors and musicians. She recently took time out from writing a book on daily life in post-apartheid South Africa to correspond with Hopkins Magazine.

People in the States will not be familiar with noseweek.

noseweek is the only investigative journal in South Africa, and one of the very few publications independent of the media groupings that give government and big business a disproportionate say in the news. Our readership is 13,000, but it's in the top economic and educational categories. We take few advertisements, and none from powerful institutions, so we can say what we want.

An article last December called "Is There a Dead Gorilla in Your Cellphone?" documented how the mineral coltan, used for capacitors, is helping fund the war in the Congo. In the same issue, "Microloans: Organized Crime?" described a dispute and scandal in the barely regulated small-loan industry that charges low-income clients interest rates of up to 1,000 percent a year.

Over time, whatever I write about, I hope to persuade South Africans that there are Americans who care about them and consider them to have equal value in the world community.

How does a classics scholar become a crusading journalist in South Africa?

It was a sheer stumble. I have a PhD in classics from Harvard. Studying came easily to me, but I eventually ran into two big difficulties: Teaching and writing scholarly papers for publication seemed grim, life-consuming chores. In late 1993, I grabbed an offer of an interdisciplinary job from the University of Cape Town. It was in the classics department, but the creative writing program was starting and I was promised a chance to teach in it.

When I resigned from that job three years later, I had fallen in love with a South African, who is now my fiancˇ, and I got involved in Quaker Service, which helps out destitute people, on a case-by-case basis, in emergencies. Besides that work, I became caught up in figuring out and communicating the ways South Africa works. I went back to the U.S. to study writing at Hopkins and had a great time, but felt spiritually bored and purposeless. As one skilled person in the U.S., I didn't feel I was making a great difference. So back I came.

So how does South Africa work?

A Third World country with a substantial minority of Westernized and wealthy people, good infrastructure, and high technology is supposed to be uniquely promising, but in reality it's uniquely disastrous. The resentment across the social divide and the simultaneous opportunities for destruction, self-destruction, and further alienation are almost beyond belief. The social divisions are so great that people mechanically locate evil outside themselves: Whites are tyrants, blacks are criminals. How do you create civic unity, respect for the law, solid advances against poverty? I hope that the book I'm writing now, by laying out the problems, gets people smarter than me working on the solutions.

Does your classics background enter into this anywhere?

I have a proposal in the pipeline to teach aspiring African poets and novelists English usage based on rhetoric. The oppressor has a great capacity to listen to the news of his wrongdoing as long as the news comes in an attractive form. If talented young black creative writers buy into this possibility, they'll become more persuasive to editors and readers, and will have an easier time publishing in the mainstream. -- DK

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