Johns Hopkins Magazine
Johns Hopkins Magazine Current Issue Past Issues Search Get In Touch
Wholly Hopkins
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


University: Film Collections Include a Wealth of Fading Images

Science: Giacconi Earns Nobel Physics Prize

Medicine: Feds Endorse Reforms After Research Death

Medicine: "Maryland Gentleman" Turner Dies at 100

University: Homewood House Marks Two Centuries

University: Cranbrook Curator Saarnio to Head Historic Houses

Students: Students Take a Philosophical Approach to New Journal

Books: His, Hers, and I

Ethics: McHugh's Balancing Act

APL: Contour Mission

Mathematics: Conjecturing About Math's Big Questions

International Affairs: Cohen on Choices Regarding Iraq

Nursing: A Nurse's Intersection With War

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

Film Collections Include a Wealth of Fading Images

In a vaultlike room under the Turner Stage in East Baltimore, thousands of film canisters rest in dusty obscurity, a decaying legacy of the rich history of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Dale Levitz, who runs the Medical Video office, opens a gray steel canister containing original Hopkins footage from 1932, when a historic effort was made to document a day in the life of a teaching hospital.

The old film, showing the wavy pattern of age, reeks of vinegar.

William H. Welch discusses his accomplishments in a rare film. "It's deteriorating before our very eyes," says Levitz, who has been at Hopkins since the 1970s and has seen the transformation from film to digital video over that time.

That 1932 film, in flickering black-and-white images, shows nurses baking bread and churning butter, while doctors make rounds and hospital staff shovel coal to stoke the furnaces. In another film from the same era, and one of the first industrial film talkies, William H. Welch, well into his 80s and wearing a starched collar, describes the creation of the School of Hygiene and Public Health and the then-new Institute of the History of Medicine.

"This latest activity," says Welch, "has served to strengthen the opinion which I have long held, that nothing adds more to the interest and fascination of our profession than the study of the historical and cultural background of medicine in the natural sciences through the ages."

With more than 3,500 films dating to the 1930s and close to 5,000 videotapes -- some in outdated formats -- dating to the 1960s, the collection may be one of the largest in the country of its kind, says Levitz.

But Levitz is concerned. Recently, when she went to play an old videotape, there was nothing there. People don't think about it, she says, but video has a shelf life and many of the medical videos are now 30 years old.

"I'm really worried about the film collection because it is our medical moving image archive," says Levitz. "And we will never be able to recover that, when it goes."

A similar situation exists in the Whiting School of Engineering in the Instructional Television office (ITV), where over the past 20 years, Deirdre Hammer, a media producer, has made hundreds of videos and recorded interviews and university events, such as the announcement of the record-breaking gift from Zanvyl Krieger '28 to the School of Arts and Sciences, a campus visit by Boris Yeltsin, and rare interview footage with Abel Wolman '13 (Eng '15).

"This was never intended to be an archive, but we've become one," observes Hammer, who recently began an effort to create an online database of what exists in the ITV collection.

"At least people will know what we have," she says. "Right now, the only person who knows is me."

Because of the decentralized nature of the university, other collections of film and video are sprinkled about the various schools and departments. In some cases, they exist only as tapes on a professor's shelf, says Levitz.

At Homewood, the director of sports information, Ernie Larossa, inherited decades' worth of film canisters when he came to Hopkins five years ago. Boxes of film sit like undiscovered treasure in a storage area under the Schelle Pavilion.

Ernie Larossa with film and video of Hopkins sports teams playing over the years, stored in boxes beneath the Schelle Pavilion.
Photo by Christopher Myers
"As best I can tell, there is no record of what we have on hand," says Larossa. "It has not been chronicled in any way or recorded in any way by sport or even just as one large collection."

Bob Scott '52, who was the men's lacrosse coach for 20 years and later athletic director for 21 before his retirement in 1995, says many of the old films are coaches' footage for lacrosse and football. "Back in the early years of my coaching at Hopkins, we weren't into the filming of games with regularity, as is the case today," says Scott. But some of those games were filmed, such as the 1957 homecoming game against the U.S. Naval Academy.

In addition to showing the Hopkins team pasting Navy, the homecoming film contains images of pre-game floats -- colorfully and lovingly created by students -- and elaborate ceremonies, including a procession of alumni carrying banners from as far back as the Class of 1897.

As part of a summer project to document the state of some of the film and video collections, a few of the old sports films were converted to videotape, using a special 16mm projector. The film of the 1957 homecoming game was so shrunken and brittle with age that it barely made it through the projector.

"Archival film is history, and you can't recreate the imagery that has been captured and documented in archival film," says Andrea Kalin, a documentary filmmaker who recently finished work on "Partners of the Heart," a look at the unique partnership of Alfred Blalock, a white heart surgeon, and Vivien Thomas, a black surgical research technician, who together at Hopkins developed pioneering heart surgery techniques.

Kalin made great use of the Hopkins film archive and says it was important to telling the story. Her film will debut in February on PBS.

"It's very difficult to tell today what we'll view as valuable tomorrow," she says. "So many of the activities, of the personalities, of the general day-to-day experiences of an institution are critical to understanding its history and its foundation. Without it, it's institutional amnesia." --Glenn Small,

Giacconi Earns Nobel Physics Prize

Johns Hopkins research professor Riccardo Giacconi has been named co-recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in physics for his pioneering work in X-ray astronomy.

"He and his colleagues revolutionized astrophysics using the X-ray region of the spectrum to discover fundamental properties of black holes, neutron stars, clusters of galaxies, and quasars," says Colin Norman, Hopkins professor of physics and astronomy and a frequent collaborator with Giacconi. Norman extolled the new laureate's record of sound scientific judgment and administrative leadership, noting, "He is always determined, with great tenacity, to get at the fundamental scientific truth."

Riccardo Giacconi Giacconi joined the faculty of the Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences in 1982 as professor of physics and astronomy. From 1981 to 1993, he was director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope from a facility on Hopkins' Homewood campus.

In 1998 he became a Hopkins research professor to continue his X-ray astronomy research while also leading groups that build large astronomical observatories. Currently he is president of Associated Universities, Inc., which co-administers the National Radio Astronomy Observatory for the National Science Foundation.

Says Hopkins President William R. Brody, "It goes without saying that we congratulate Dr. Giacconi for this enormous recognition of his work, and for the peerless contributions he has made to his discipline and to science. We are honored by our association with him." --Michael Purdy

Feds Endorse Reforms After Research Death

In August, the federal government officially lifted all restrictions from Hopkins regarding human research testing, noting Hopkins' development of "a markedly enhanced system for protection of human subjects."

Following the June 2001 death of Ellen Roche, a healthy research subject in an asthma study at Hopkins, the U.S. Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) suspended all federally funded research on human subjects at nearly all Hopkins divisions. Hopkins initiated a corrective action plan [see "Trials and Tribulation," February 2002] and has been working with OHRP to bring its system into compliance with the regulators' requirements.

Greg Koski, OHRP director, says his office "recognizes that Johns Hopkins University is taking its commitment to protecting research volunteers very seriously. Johns Hopkins has indicated that it is striving to establish an institutional culture that will enable it to become a leader in the area of human subjects protection. We acknowledge and appreciate the great strides JHU has made over the past year in improving its system."

Greg Koski of the OHRP says his office "recognizes that Johns Hopkins University is taking its commitment to protecting research volunteers very seriously." Improving that system involved what Hopkins Medicine CEO Edward Miller had previously characterized as a change in institutional culture. Says Miller, "The issue of compliance in the past was viewed as an unnecessary extra piece of work. We now understand that it must be done properly and is part of all the studies we do, whether in human or animal research."

OHRP noted that Hopkins has implemented a multifaceted education program to ensure that all members of Hopkins institutional review boards, IRB staff, and research investigators receive ongoing education in ethical principles and regulatory requirements for protection of human research subjects; increased the number of IRBs from two to four (with an additional IRB at Bayview); committed additional staff resources to its IRBs to avoid backlogs in review of research protocols; and implemented new procedures for the conduct of IRB meetings and documentation of IRB activities.

Hopkins created the new position of vice dean for clinical investigation, a position filled by Michael J. Klag, director of the division of general internal medicine. Klag notes that in addition to the steps cited in OHRP's August 23 letter, Hopkins undertook a review of all 2,400 research protocols that were under way when OHRP issued its suspension. That review has now been completed. The institution contracted with an outside IRB to help review new research proposals, and Klag says he expects that relationship to continue, augmenting the work of the four Hopkins IRBs.

Klag says Hopkins is negotiating for an electronic information system that would give researchers and IRB members online access to protocols that have been submitted for IRB review.

Researchers and faculty at Hopkins had complained that IRB service was time-consuming and seemed to do little to advance one's career. The institution has worked to change that as well, says Klag: "We now pay people [for serving on an IRB], and their contribution is recognized at all levels. We have started a research program focused on oversight of human subject research that is demonstrating that this is an academic as well as a service procedure."

Says Miller, "I think we all understand the serious situation that we found ourselves in when our procedures were not of the quality that we expect from Hopkins. The people here put their shoulder to the wheel and made significant changes in how protocols are reviewed." --Dale Keiger

"Maryland Gentleman" Turner Dies at 100

The first time Thomas Bourne Turner set foot in the Hopkins School of Medicine, the year was 1927. For the next 75 years, he rarely left, claiming that the one thing he was never good at was retirement. The former dean died on September 22. He was 100.

Turner served as dean from 1957 to 1968. Under his leadership, the School of Medicine's budget grew by 500 percent, its physical plant doubled, and its full-time faculty tripled as the school embraced new disciplines. Richard S. Ross, another dean emeritus, recalls, "He led by commitment to excellence, but also by charm and good humor. He had the ability to defuse conflict with his sense of humor and a good joke. He was a Maryland gentleman of the old school."

The Maryland gentleman came to Hopkins in '27 as a Jacques Loeb postdoctoral fellow. He soon joined the faculty but left in 1932 for the Rockefeller Foundation's international health division.

Thomas Bourne Turner He returned to Hopkins as a professor, and as chairman of the department of bacteriology in the School of Hygiene and Public Health. He would not leave again, except for military service during World War II. He played an important part in the U.S. Army's syphilis eradication program, emerging from the war as a colonel.

From the dean's office, Turner moved on to the archives in 1968, becoming the first archivist of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. He wrote a history titled A Heritage of Excellence: The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions 1914-1947 (one of his five books).

Says Hopkins Medicine CEO Edward Miller, "Dr. Turner represented the ideals of Hopkins, keeping the old alive while still marveling at the new. He was seen as a great dean and a compassionate physician. He loved people and right up to the end he was acutely aware of where Hopkins Medicine was going."

The former dean enjoyed -- and recommended -- two drinks a day, preferably beer, white wine, or Scotch. (Considering his longevity and lifelong mental acuity, this recommendation just might catch on.) He was known for the occasional Turnerism, and in 1993 wrote what he called "A Few Things Learned During a Long Life." Among them:

"Almost all soups can be improved by a dash of sherry."

"When given a book, thank the giver within 48 hours; otherwise you really will have to read it." --DK

Homewood House Marks Two Centuries

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, was clearly incensed when he penned a letter to his son in 1803, berating the newly married Charles for his extravagance in constructing his country house at Homewood. Charles, who had relied on his well-heeled father to fund the project, had overspent wildly -- exceeding the budgeted $10,000 to the tune of $40,000. The elder Carroll fumed, describing his son's folly as "an improvident waste of money, which you will have reason, as long as you live, to look back upon with painful regret."

Charles Carroll Jr. and his wife, Harriet Chew Carroll As it turns out, Carroll's words could not have been less prescient. Two centuries later, Homewood House survives as one of the country's most important extant Federal-style houses -- a National Historic Landmark that draws 9,000 visitors a year to the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. Ironically, it was precisely Charles' seeming extravagance that has given Homewood House its place of enduring significance, says Catherine Rogers Arthur, curator of the historic house museum. "Houses built before this were much more utilitarian. Homewood is the first family home built with an overall design concept" -- a concept largely credited to gentleman architect Charles Carroll Jr. himself, she says. The five-part design featured a central block in the middle, with two "hyphens" leading off to wings on each end. Inside, Charles Carroll Jr. commissioned the work of the finest artisans. The result: elaborate ornamental plasterwork and elegantly carved mantles and door surrounds which are widely accepted as being among the finest examples of Federal Maryland carved woodwork.

"Homewood is a rare, incredibly well-preserved relic of a time gone by sitting right here in our front yard," says Judith Proffitt, the museum's program coordinator. "Over these past 200 years Homewood has been virtually unaltered. It's not something you find just anywhere, and certainly not in this great condition."

A view of the front entry hall of Homewood House, with trademark fanlight atop the door.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer
Despite its historic significance, Homewood House today remains a bit of an enigma to many of those who trod daily across its grounds to get to and from surrounding dorms and classrooms, and the adjacent Milton S. Eisenhower Library. Some visitors assume it's the home of the office of admissions, others mistake it for the university president's house, says Arthur. Few pause to consider that the house predated the rest of campus by more than a century and served as its namesake as well as the source of architectural inspiration for the campus's first wave of buildings.

"The earliest campus designers borrowed architectural elements from Homewood House and interpreted them in new ways," explains Arthur. The venerable Gilman Hall, for example, completed in 1915, features an overblown version of Homewood's expansive front portico and similarly styled dormer windows. At the ends of Maryland, Latrobe, and other buildings can be seen the trademark "fanlights" (semicircular windows) first incorporated atop the doorways in Homewood's interior. Even the MSE Library, completed in 1964, touts Homewood-inspired "eyebrows" over its windows. And all the earliest buildings were constructed with a brick selected to work harmoniously with that used in Homewood House. Dubbed "Homewood Colonials," the bricks went on to become a popular seller for the Baltimore Brick Company in the early to mid-1900s.

"The influence of Homewood House extends well beyond this campus," notes Arthur, who has a file filled with Homewood look-alikes. The alumni house at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, is a copy of Homewood, as is the president's house at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In a 1934 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine, Homewood House won "Home of the Year"; readers could write for one of three modified designs, depending on how much they wanted to spend. "And people are building Homewoods today," says Arthur. She's seen proposed plans for diplomatic housing in Nicaragua and Liberia. "Somebody recently sent me plans for a house in Salt Lake City -- kind of a Homewood House West. They're using one wing as the garage. It works out quite well," she says, laughing.

A capital decorating the dining room doorway at Homewood, top, was probably drawn from this plate, below, in an architectural pattern book influenced by the innovative Robert Adam. When Charles Carroll Jr. set out in 1801 to create the elegant villa that would eventually become the year-round home for his growing young family, he envisioned something grand -- "a dramatic stage," says Proffitt, "upon which he and wife Harriet would act and interact with society." Sadly, his dream would not be borne out. Though the Carrolls did some entertaining on their estate, Harriet -- kept busy with the birth of seven children -- was a homebody who most preferred small gatherings of close friends and family. Once the house was complete, Charles found himself unsuited to a career in business and complained of having little to do. By 1812, he had begun a long spiral into alcoholism. Accounts of the day record him drinking several quarts of brandy -- before breakfast. By 1816, Harriet and the children moved out permanently, to a home in Philadelphia. Charles offered up the property for rent four years later. He died in 1825, at age 50, of an illness related to his alcoholism.

When giving tours of Homewood House, Arthur always touches briefly on the fate of Charles Carroll Jr. But his sad personal tale does little to detract from the legacy he left. "Uniformly, the thing most people are struck by is how livable Homewood House seems," says Arthur. "That speaks to the success of the architectural design. Other historic houses feel too formal. At Homewood, everyone says, 'I could live here.'"
-- Sue De Pasquale


Homewood House marks several anniversaries in 2002.

1802: Charles Carroll Jr. and his wife, Harriet Chew, move in to their new home, still under construction.

1816: Alienated by her husband's alcoholism, Harriet takes children and moves to Philadelphia.

1819: Charles Carroll Jr. offers property for rent.

1825: Charles Carroll Jr. dies.

1839: Homewood sold out of the Carroll family to Samuel Wyman.

1902: The house and property bequeathed to Johns Hopkins as site for the university's new campus. Donation made by William Wyman and first cousin William Keyser.

1900s: Homewood House used primarily for university offices.

1971: Homewood House designated a National Historic Landmark.

1973: Robert G. Merrick, a Hopkins alumnus, establishes an endowment to restore Homewood House as a historic house museum.

1987: After years of research, archaeological investigation, and restoration, Homewood House Museum opens to the public. --SD

Cranbrook Curator Saarnio to Head Historic Houses

Robert Saarnio (pictured at right), who begins work this month as director of historic houses at Johns Hopkins, has a straightforward goal in mind: to make the university's two historic house museums indispensable stops for Baltimore visitors interested in cultural history and contemporary art.

"Homewood House and Evergreen House are two crown jewels that any other university in this country would be stunned to have," says Saarnio. What's more, "I'm coming on board at a time when the houses are being asked to become more accessible to faculty, students, and scholars. It couldn't be more exciting."

This semester, for the first time, he notes, students are using Homewood House as their classroom, for a course in American architectural history that was arranged by his predecessor, Cindy Kelly, who stepped down last summer.

Saarnio had served since 1999 as curator and collections manager of cultural properties at Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Previously, he was curator of architecture at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. He is also director of Preservation Action, a national advocacy organization. --SD

Students Take a Philosophical Approach to New Journal

Prometheus, the university's new student journal of philosophy, is proof that sometimes the lofty musings of coffee talk do come to pass.

In fact, after a few years of talk about creating such a journal, it was a kick of caffeine at a meeting between two undergraduates named Dave that finally got Prometheus off the ground.

"Basically, I was having coffee one day with Dave [Harris] in August 2001 when we started talking about it again," says editor-in-chief Dave Kotlyar, a senior majoring in philosophy and biology.

Thirteen months and who knows how many jolts of java later, the first issue of Prometheus is available online at; a printed version came out in late October. Prometheus' defined mission is "to challenge academic boundaries, and to publish student work on controversial and unconventional ideas in the realm of philosophy." Papers may be submitted by students anywhere on any subject, as long as the approach is philosophical.

The inaugural issue features papers by undergraduates at five schools: Villanova, Stanford, and Trinity universities, University of Dallas, and Ramapo College of New Jersey. It also includes a transcript of an interview with retiring Hopkins philosophy professors Stephen Barker and Jerome Schneewind.

With the help of a free ad on the American Philosophical Association's Web site and a mailing to 80 campuses across the country, a total of 35 pieces were received for review.

From left, the staff for Prometheus, a student journal of philosophy: Dave Kotlyar, Dave Harris, John Odito, Haley Morrisson, Joe Gorodenker, and Ben Ouyang
Photo by Will Kirk
"We were looking for pieces that exemplify writers' curiosity and their range of vision. We didn't want it to be all about bioethics or aesthetics," says Dave Harris, a senior majoring in Near Eastern studies. "We have two pieces on Plato, but they are not simply reports about an ancient philosopher. There's another article about friendship, one about Heidegger and Nazism, and another about metaphysical rebellion."

Along the way, the editorial board solicited the help of graduate students and philosophy professors. Girard Brenneman was the editorial board's graduate student representative. Two things about the students stood out, he says: "The first is their enthusiasm. They held numerous meetings with many different faculty members in order to secure funding and gain departmental approval. I am sure they endured a lot of bureaucratic nightmares while organizing the journal. Second, and most striking, is the affinity for philosophy that [the students] have. This seems to be what motivates them to endure the long meetings, paper reviews, and other time commitments that go with creating a journal from scratch."

Board members are already looking toward the next issue. They hope to attract a greater number of submissions from Hopkins students next time. The goal is to have a 50-50 split between pieces from Hopkins and other universities. The students plan to start a philosophical forum this semester; the idea is to keep alive the Socratic style of oral debate in addition to the written criticism found in the journal. --Amy Cowles

His, Hers, and I

Writing Seminars faculty were conspicuous on the just-published fiction tables of bookstores this fall. Jean McGarry issued Dream Date (Johns Hopkins, 2002), her fourth collection of short stories. And Stephen Dixon published his 23rd book, a novel titled I. (McSweeney's, 2002).

McGarry grouped five of her new stories as "His" and the remaining eight as "Hers." This arrangement was neither deliberate nor apparent as she composed the stories. She says, "Until I put them together, I didn't know they were a project. But they have their own inner logic. Now I can see what I was doing, but at the time I was just writing story after story."

The "His" section represents something of an experiment, McGarry says. "I had always written from the female point of view. I say 'female,' but I also mean 'underdog.'" In the first Dream Date story, "Among the Philistines," she took the perspective of a male "overdog," then wrote four more tales from the male viewpoint. "I gave my male characters hard tasks, I stacked the deck against them, but all of them pulled through."

Love affairs and their complications are central -- "Eros is the subject," says McGarry -- but the author says she was bored with conventional love stories. So in "Paris," for example, a wife pursues her unfaithful husband to that city, where she derives satisfaction from an unexpected source: his mistress. McGarry says, "Instead of melodramatizing or satirizing love, why not treat it in a new manner? What if people get not what they want, but more than what they want?"

The protagonist of Stephen Dixon's novel is the I. of the title -- first initial, as in Kafka's K. -- who leads a one-damned-thing-after-another life: "He kisses her goodbye. His briefcase, he thinks. Forgot it last week and only realized he did when he got halfway to work. Should he turn back for it, he thought then, or continue to drive to school and give some excuse to his students why he can't return their papers and then try winging it through class for most of the two hours? and drove back. He gets his briefcase, checks that everything's inside, kisses his wife again and leaves. The car won't start. Figures."

Dixon has already completed two more novels that will be sequels to I. "I envisioned [a trilogy] about halfway through. I was only going to write two books. The second was going to be called I. Partout" -- a play on the French "everywhere" and "part two" -- "but then a part of Partout took off and became the novel Two. Then I made a third novel, partly out of the material I'd already written. So I completed Three, which had been part of I. Partout. Is that unclear enough?" --DK

For McHugh, a Balancing Act on Stem Cells

Late last November, Paul McHugh picked up the phone to hear the warm voice of his friend, ethicist Leon Kass from the University of Chicago, asking of him something both civic-minded and flattering: "How would you like to be on the President's Council on Bioethics?"

"Of course I said yes," says McHugh, who recently stepped down as chair of Hopkins' department of psychiatry. "I was tickled. What an honor!" The council -- known as PCOB -- had just been commissioned by President Bush to offer ethical support and suggest policy, largely on issues of stem cells and human cloning.

A flurry of interviews followed while the White House and FBI probed for skeletons, financial conflicts, and willingness to act nice. Within two months of the first phone call, a second told McHugh he was in.

Illustration by Michael Morgenstern What the calls didn't say was that the bioethics councils that advise presidents are unequaled in taxing participants' powers of compromise and their ability to articulate what they believe. The councils are little velvet pressure-cookers, set out for all to see.

McHugh is rounding out his first of two years on PCOB. And while he's still his ebullient self, he admits this first year has been a pilgrim's progress. Since his appointment, he's been twitted by journalists as being potential "window dressing," a man bound by Catholic dogma. In July, after the council issued its first report on human cloning, the journal Science singled him out for decision-waffling.

From the start, the 18-member council, which includes Hopkins professor Francis Fukuyama, had its work set out for it. The scientific terrain differed sharply from what President Clinton's ethics group faced five years earlier when it suggested a moratorium on human cloning. The most important change was that stem cell science had progressed, from the "unveiling" of the earliest-stage human embryonic stem cells at Hopkins and elsewhere to small but real proof of the cells' therapeutic potential for treating life-threatening diseases.

When the White House announced PCOB's makeup in February, charges in the press that he might be a presidential puppet stung McHugh's ears. At 71, he is known for his ability to sum up a situation elegantly in the flattest of Baaaston vowels. He's also noted for his strong-opined writings in right-leaning or moderate policy magazines refuting false memory syndrome and deploring doctor-assisted suicide.

McHugh was particularly incensed at the notion that his vote was a given because he'd published in Catholic magazines. "I'm on the council as a physician with expertise in neuropsychiatric issues. To say I'd vote one way because I'm Catholic is an insult and a denial of what I've stood for so long."

Much of McHugh's reputation at Hopkins has come from his espousal of science as the only route to psychiatry's progress. From the first, he's promoted research in Huntington's disease, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's -- ills that might profit from stem cell research.

Guest experts began setting out for PCOB both the ethics and the biology germane to the issues. The members removed reproductive cloning from the table relatively quickly, with McHugh calling it "a desecration of human dignity."

The real crunch lay in dealing with, in council-speak, cloning for biomedical research. From the start, McHugh said he wanted "to keep people working," meaning, most thought, that he wanted scientists to be able to study the stem cells produced by the process called somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which was used to create the cloned sheep Dolly. But as debate intensified, his vow grew more difficult to keep.

"My conflict," McHugh told the council, "is between my sympathies and my pieties: sympathy for the sick and the necessity for more information and treatment, and piety for human life -- its giftedness and its manifest joys."

Ultimately, he says, "I had to find a way to resolve my sympathy/piety conflict, and I did. People later told me, 'You went out of your way to invent an answer.' I told them: 'You're darn right. That's why I'm here.'"

In SCNT, a body cell's nucleus is transferred to a living, de-nucleated ovum. With an appropriate nudge, the resulting entity becomes a dividing ball of cells that looks like its counterpart -- a blastocyst -- in garden-variety human development. This "blastocyst" has the potential for generating human stem cells or, many believe, of becoming a cloned human being.

McHugh termed the cloned ball of cells a "clonote," with a different origin -- the body cell -- to distinguish it from an egg-and-sperm-formed zygote, which his interpretation of Catholic doctrine would hold is a person. Instead, McHugh views the "clonote" as a building block -- just steps that are programmed into every body cell to manufacture itself again should the need arise.

"I kept seeing the SCNT experiment being carried out," he says. "I'd see the technician doing the transfers and monitoring what would follow. It certainly looks like tissue culture to me! I caught a lot of heat for this: People said, 'This is a human person,' but I'd say, 'It looks like tissue culture.'"

Things came to a head at the meeting before the report was to be issued. "How could we get a policy statement," McHugh shrugs, "if some view what you get as building blocks and others say it's a precious human?"

As time grew short, people got testy -- the transcripts reflect that. The compromise had come far enough, at least, that a lasting ban was overruled. Then matters were down to two choices: approve research cloning but with restrictions, or impose a several-year moratorium? The session ended with the council apparently evenly divided -- a coup for patients' advocacy groups. McHugh said he favored the "go-ahead with restrictions" option.

But when the draft report came out a week later, McHugh had switched at the last minute to a moratorium, pushing that view into the majority. "Some think I waffled," says McHugh.

He explains he'd originally thought that a go-ahead vote would halt research for the several years it would take to put restrictions in place -- a hiatus that could prompt scientists to answer questions regarding safety and ethical issues. Council colleagues, however, told him research would continue all along.

"I felt torn," says McHugh. "I hate the idea of a moratorium imposed on the scientific community. I'm on their side. But some scientists need to be nudged with a 2-by-4. Why haven't they imposed their own moratorium? By God, they should answer these questions before they do any more human work or it becomes standard practice!"

What stuck in McHugh's head, he says, was an image he'd seen of Dolly and her lamb. "And then the penny dropped. It's the progeny I worry about!" Even allowing SCNT to be used for producing stem cells was the top of a slippery slope, he feared, and unscrupulous people could learn more about the science of cloning people as the procedure was refined. "You'll produce a person who'll have a reproductive life," he says of the dangers of human cloning. "We could create flaws that run forever down the human lineage.

"Science magazine said, 'McHugh changed!' But I didn't really change; I developed. It's the pilgrimage thing." --Marjorie Centofanti

Contour Mission

"The operation was a success, only the patient died," said Robert Farquhar, Contour mission director at the Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Part of a $159 million NASA-sponsored mission to explore two comets, Contour apparently broke up after igniting a rocket motor intended to propel the craft out of Earth's orbit. Controllers will try to pick up its signal again in mid-December.

Conjecturing About Math's Big Questions

Among the main branches of number theory -- the study of integers and their generalizations -- are analytic number theory and algebraic number theory. Both are complex and abstruse, but one much-simplified distinction between them is that the analytic branch studies functions that do not jump from one value to another, while the algebraic deals with functions that do jump. Picture a simple graph with two axes. On that graph appears a continuous smooth curve, plus a spray of seemingly random points. Analytic number theory would concern itself with the curve, algebraic with the points.

Last August, 62 mathematicians came to Hopkins for a five-day international conference that assembled all the foremost number theorists currently working on Stark's Conjectures, which bridge the analytic and the algebraic. In the 1970s, mathematician Harold M. Stark, then at MIT, generalized a classical formula, called the "class number formula," proven in the 19th century by mathematician Lejeune Dirchlet, and created a conjectural causeway, of sorts, between the two branches. This causeway was created by using a type of analytic objects (derivatives of L-functions at the origin) to give information about a type of algebraic objects (global units in number fields).

Mathematicians have since refined Stark's idea (which is why they now speak in the plural about Stark's Conjectures), and have proved it in many particular cases. But no one has proved it in its full generality yet. It is currently one of the most important unresolved problems in number theory.

Illustration by Wesley Bedrosian Cristian Popescu, Hopkins assistant professor of mathematics and the author of one refinement of the conjecture, organized the conference with mathematicians David Burns, Jonathan Sands, and David Solomon. "If the conjecture were to be settled now," he says, "we would have a much stronger understanding of number theory."

The conjectures were not settled at the conference, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Number Theory Foundation, and Hopkins. But the major researchers in the field all presented papers describing their work on various parts of it. Three of them -- John Tate of the University of Texas, Benedict Gross of Harvard, and Karl Rubin of Stanford -- are past recipients of the Cole Prize, the most prestigious award in number theory. Harold Stark himself was a main speaker.

One obstacle to a proof, says Popescu, is that number theorists do not yet possess all the tools they need. As they work on the conjectures, they find new ramifications and links to other conjectures and theorems within number theory. But for a full proof they still need to develop additional techniques and theorems, as well as refine existing theorems.

Says another attendee, Henri Darmon of McGill University in Canada, "As far as the main issue related to the proof -- understanding how the values of L-functions encode interesting information -- we are exactly at the same point we were in the '70s when Stark first formulated the conjecture. In other words, the conjecture is still as utterly baffling and mysterious as it was then. This is not to say that no progress has been accomplished in directions related to the conjectures."

Each new refinement, says Popescu, has ramifications and implications for further work. But is a proof near? "Quite far off, in my opinion," says Rubin, of Stanford. "But one can still make progress by proving special cases, gathering numerical evidence, and trying to formulate the 'best possible' conjecture."

Popescu says, "The link between the analytic world and algebraic worlds predicted by these conjectures sheds new light on both, and on other problems raised previously by other number theorists." Adds Rubin, "More and more relations are being found between different branches of math-ematics, and between mathematics and other sciences. Just the fact that a connection exists is important and useful information."

Two elements set the Hopkins conference apart, says Popescu: "All the main contributors to the development of the subject participated actively, and all the main speakers were very familiar with each other's work."

The organizers plan to publish the conference proceedings in a book with the American Mathematical Society. -- DK

International Affairs
Cohen on Choices Regarding Iraq

"The choice before the United States is a stark one, either to acquiesce in a situation which permits the regime of Saddam Hussein to restore his economy, acquire weapons of mass destruction, and pose a lethal threat to his neighbors and to us, or to take action to overthrow him," said Eliot A. Cohen of Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, speaking October 3 to the House Armed Services Committee. "In my view, the latter course, with all of its risks, is the correct one. Indeed, the dangers of failing to act in the near future are unacceptable." Cohen's book Supreme Command was on President Bush's reading list this summer.

A Nurse's Intersection With War

Helen Hui-Chou, a 1997 graduate of the Hopkins School of Nursing and an intensive care nurse in the Navy until August, was part of a team sent to the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in January to provide medical treatment for detainees from Afghanistan. Her reaction to the assignment follows.

Q. What did you do in Cuba?

A group of about 177 doctors, nurses, and hospital corpsman mobilized in less than 48 hours to set up a hospital. We triaged all detainees when they arrived at the detention center, Camp X-ray. Those who needed medical and/or surgical intervention were admitted to Fleet Hospital 20.

Census at our hospital began with two and soon reached over 17 inpatients. We provided orthopedic surgeries for many "war" injuries. We also provided medical treatment for TB, malaria, and malnutrition. We even had a dietitian dedicated to designing a healthy, religiously appropriate menu for the detainees.

Helen Hui-Chou ready for duty in Cuba Q. How long were you there?

A few months. Luckily for the detainees, most were not critically injured. So I was able to come home after the treatment and recovery of the more seriously ill detainees.

Q. How did you interact with the detainees?

The hospital did have interpreters, both military and from the International Red Cross. However, they were not at the hospital 24/7. They were there during initial assessments and admissions. After that, the staff kept a short list of Arabic words that we anticipated we would need to say. "Pain" was alum ... I remember "pain" by heart, because I often assessed and treated it. Beyond those words, I found I was able to communicate by gesturing and demonstrating treatments. I often felt like I was playing charades.

As far as interactions, it began slowly. I knew of their attitudes toward women, but I hoped that they would understand and make an exception for medical care. I tried to demonstrate each action on myself before approaching them; I'd show where I was going to place the stethoscope or expose which wounds. Although they were very hesitant at first, by my last few days there, most detainees would greet me with a smile and nod in acknowledgment of my "duties." I think most appreciated our treatment and let their guard down when they saw we were really there to help them and not harm them.

A temporary hospital for detainees is erected. Q. What did you feel about being there?

I was angry at first, to know who we were going to treat, that these men were a part of the plan to kill Americans carried out on the USS Cole, World Trade Center, and the Pentagon. I was especially resentful that only a year before, I had to care for a sailor injured on the USS Cole and now I had to treat someone who could have been responsible for that attack. But I forced myself to set my feelings aside and remind myself of what it means to be a Navy nurse (and above all, a Hopkins nurse). Honor, Courage, Commitment: these were the values that drew me to Navy nursing and these were the ones I had to live by. My assignment was to provide medical treatment for these detainees, and that I was determined to do without personal prejudice.

I tried to think of the situation in reverse. How would I want U.S. service members to be treated if they were caught? I no longer questioned why I was going to provide the best treatment I was trained to provide; a Hopkins nurse was not going to provide substandard care to anyone!

The ward awaits patients. Q. How did your nursing background help you in your job?

The injuries I saw in Cuba were similar to the medical and surgical cases I had seen as a student at Hopkins. So I was certainly prepared to treat them. Dressing wounds was not difficult. Dressing sterile wounds without scissors and extra supplies at arm's reach is.

Because of security concerns, we could not have pens or scissors exposed on our persons or near the detainees. I would have to prepare a dressing or IV away from the patient and bring only exactly what I needed to the detainee's bedside. We had to track all needles, syringes, pens, etc., to make sure none were missing. We let the detainees eat with spoons, but we had to make sure we got them back.

Morning assessments took a bit longer as we had to unshackle each patient, just so I could check wounds and listen to lungs etc. My habit -- which I had the worst time trying to break -- was that after each use, I normally sling my stethoscope around my neck. We were advised against this as it could be used to choke us.

I feel having done clinics in downtown Baltimore and at Hopkins, I was used to a certain level of awareness of personal security in a medical setting. But it was taken to a much higher level in Cuba.

Return to November 2002 Table of Contents

  The Johns Hopkins Magazine | The Johns Hopkins University | 3003 North Charles Street |
Suite 100 | Baltimore, Maryland 21218 | Phone 410.516.7645 | Fax 410.516.5251