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Other activities of The American Philosophical Society


Unusual applications for the Lewis and Clark Fund
Baruch Blumberg Physician
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We had one very… very unusual request. It was from, actually, an older person, and he was a historian really, and he wanted to have funding so he could join a deep submersible trip to view, and take photographs and, I believe some collections, from a… a United States... former United States submarine that had been scuttled just off the edge of the continental shelf, off Oslo, in Norway. And the story of this submarine is really sort of bizarre. It… it was a World War I US submarine, actually obsolete, and the Navy loaned it to a British polar explorer named Wilkinson. And he had this goal of taking this air-breathing submarine — it was a diesel submarine — taking it under the ice to the North Pole. Well, in the scheme, nobody had any pre… any idea of what it was like under the ice. He actually had a kind of skin-like, sled-like arrangement on the top of the submarine, the notion being, you sort of skid along on the bottom of the ice. Well, it turns out the bottom of the ice isn't like that at all, you know, it's big stalactites, you know, it's big projections, it's very uneven, and it was, you know, totally inconceivable it could happen. Well the… the… fortunately the trip was aborted. They did… took one sort of quick excursion under the ice, and recognized the difficulty. And then there was irreparable damage to the submarine, didn't sink it but probably couldn't navigate one of the diving planes. According to Wilkinson, it had been sabotaged. Well, if that's the case, the saboteur was one smart guy because they would never… it would have been a death sentence. So, with great difficulty, they finally got it back to Norway and they scuttled it at about 1000 feet. And they... so we funded it. You know, we could — but there was another reason. The Chief Engineer of the submarine was named Blumberg. Well, it turns out he was Frank Blumberg - he wasn't related to me, but he was related to our Chief Librarian, and we actually had his archives, we had his papers - Blumberg's papers.

[Q] It is a small world.

Then, we got a request, he said, they were being funded by the, you know, National Geographic Society, and I think the National Science Foundation. And they wanted to get a logo from the… the American Philosophical Society, that was suitable for deep submersibles, you know. So, our logo was a little busy - it's got an awful lot of figures, a lot of kind of Latin on it, you know. So I thought we needed something a little, kind of, more stark. So we had… we have a wonderful designer at the APS, and she made a logo which is a silhouette of Franklin, and then, ‘American Philosophical Society’ atop of the medallion, and then ‘Philadelphia’ on the bottom, and then of course, the front, ‘Exploration’. So we have images of some… and then there was the young woman who was studying butterflies that… that remove blood from cattle, you know, from mammals. You know, they live on, like vampire butterflies, in Nepal. And she discovered, and she went to Nepal, spent about six weeks there, you know, visited the sites, collected, and found one or two new species. And she found one that apparently was a, you know, fed on humans. So that, you know... but that's the sort of thing that, very often, you know, they're explorations of, natural history explorations. There was a young woman who got a… thought it was a great grant, to visit isolated beaches in Hawaii and collect crustacea and screen them for anti-virals and, you know, for potential medications. And also, she did a lot of work on classification. But as I said, we had… we had masses of these things.

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: North Pole, American Philosophical Society

Duration: 5 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009