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The need to fund fieldwork projects


The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research
Baruch Blumberg Physician
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One of the things that I did there that I must say I think is a kind of main focus is I established the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research. And it was established in 1804, and that was the year that Lewis and Clark and their party of explorers took off from St Louis. And the prior year, at the urging of Thomas Jefferson, who was then President of the American Philosophical Society, as well as his day time job, you know, of being President of the United States, he sent Lewis to the Philosophical Society to learn about science, essentially. I think they did a lot of surveying, you know, they had to establish latitude and longitude, and navigation. I think he may have been… had an… he was an artillery officer, so he knew a lot about that, and... but then we instructed him in botany and taxonomy and zoology, and medical… a lot of his medical information came from the savants in… in Philadelphia. And then they'd take, they took off the following year. It was a kind of complex trip, actually getting to St Louis, and then they were gone for two-plus years. Well, they kept meticulous journals. They kept, a kind of, joint journal, Lewis and Clark, and all the members of the expeditions were… were encouraged to keep journals. It was a military expedition, so most of them... funded by the Feds... Jefferson, essentially, and the… but they were encouraged to keep journals, and some of them did. And there were a few contractors, too, like, you know, the people who navigated and paddled the… they had these pirogues and rowed... rowing, big rowing boats, they had. So, and then Sacagawea was the wife of one of these, of a French Canadian contract employee. But in any case, so we have the journals. The journals are at the… we have, I think there are two or three we don't have, but we have most of the fascicles and volumes of the journals, and some of them are fantastic, clear hand, beautifully preserved, you know, it was… it was written on rag paper, and there was, they're often out  on our exhibit. And I remember, we were loaning some of the stuff during the exhibit, and I had to sign off on… on the material we were sending off to exhibit in St Louis and elsewhere. It was like 10, 20 million in value. They’re sort of priceless. There's no, you couldn't replace them in any way.

Well, then, I've been very excited about this Lewis and Clark fund, and I started with money that I had available to me, that had been, fundamentally, donated by an old friend of mine, Stanford Ascherman, who sadly died before... he'd been quite ill, and he didn't live to actually see this use of his funds. But, based on the relatively small amount that we were able, with, we had authority to use it for this, we built up the endowment now and, you know, fairly well; we need more. And we've had very good support. And the… the plan is any... who feels a field trip is important, can apply. But you can't use it to go to a library; you actually have to go out and do something. So a lot of geology, quite a lot of anthropology, many, a lot of archaeology, and geology, as I said, forestry, geography, field biology, a lot of systematics, you know, botany and zoology, and a… a certain amount of… of medical-oriented stuff, based on, mostly on epidemiology, and surveys. And we also, we have an arrangement with… with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which I directed. We fund their field work. So we have a special fund that they can… gave, and we administer the applications.

American research physician Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 along with D Carleton Gajdusek for their work on the origins and spread of infectious viral diseases that led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. Blumberg’s work covered many areas including clinical research, epidemiology, virology, genetics and anthropology.

Listeners: Rebecca Blanchard

Dr Rebecca Blanchard is Director of Clinical Pharmacology at Merck & Co., Inc. in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Her education includes a BSc in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. While at Utah, she studied in the laboratories of Dr Raymond Galinsky and Dr Michael Franklin with an emphasis on drug metabolism pathways. After receiving her PhD, Dr Blanchard completed postdoctoral studies with Dr Richard Weinshilboum at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on human pharmacogenetics. While at Mayo, she cloned the human sulfotransferase gene SULT1A1 and identified and functionally characterized common genetic polymorphisms in the SULT1A1 gene. From 1998 to 2004 Dr Blanchard was an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. In 2005 she joined the Clinical Pharmacology Department at Merck & Co., Inc. where her work today continues in the early and late development of several novel drugs. At Merck, she has contributed as Clinical Pharmacology Representative on CGRP, Renin, Losartan, Lurasidone and TRPV1 programs and serves as chair of the TRPV1 development team. Dr Blanchard is also Co-chair of the Neurology Pharmacogenomics Working Group at Merck. Nationally, she has served the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics on the Strategic Task Force and the Board of Directors. Dr Blanchard has also served on NIH study sections, and several Foundation Scientific Advisory Boards.

Tags: The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research, American Philosophical Society, NASA Astrobiology Institute, Thomas Jefferson, Sacagawea

Duration: 4 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009