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A Letter from Marburger, Monster in Peri, Car Names Again

by K. M. REESE
June 28, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 26




A letter from Marburger

Newscripts has been given a letter written by John H. Marburger III, head of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, addressed to Harold R. Paretchan, Weymouth, Mass., who had contacted Marburger on behalf of the group called Friends of Gilbert Newton Lewis, "Weymouth-born, world-renowned physical chemist and polymath." The group was attempting to get the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded posthumously to Lewis. Marburger responded as follows:

"Thank you for your letter regarding the outstanding chemist, Gilbert Lewis, and his most accomplished student, the Nobel Laureate Glenn Seaborg. ... Gilbert Lewis is considered by many to be the greatest and most influential of American chemists. Lewis made outstanding contributions to thermodynamics and its relationship to chemical equilibrium, the electron-pair bonding theory of atoms and molecules, isotopes, and the interaction of light with matter. But in many ways, his most important contribution was his vision for the conduct of research. Through the 19th century, Europe dominated science, but the first half of the 20th century brought a tidal wave of scientific research that thrust America to the forefront. Lewis influenced this revolution by both his teaching and his research. Lewis believed that a chemistry department should simultaneously teach science and advance it, always remembering that the most important emphasis must be placed on fundamental principles. This vision has come to shape in profound ways science, the modern research university, and American culture.

"Glenn Seaborg followed his mentor in making significant contributions to science and society. In 1944, he developed the 'actinide concept' of heavy-element electronic structure, probably his single greatest contribution to science. This concept predicted that the heaviest naturally occurring elements (thorium, protactinium, and uranium), together with the synthetic transuranium elements, would form a transition series of 'actinides' analogous to the rare-earth series of 'lanthanides.' His insight led to the most significant restructuring of the periodic table since the table was devised in 1869 by Dmitri Mendeleev. We should also remember Seaborg's decade of public service as the head of the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1997, Seaborg became the first living person to be honored with an elemental namesake, seaborgium.

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom was first established by President Truman in 1945. In February 1963, the Medal of Freedom, as it now exists, was established. The medal may be awarded to citizens of other nations and may be awarded posthumously. Posthumous awards have traditionally been made within one year of the honoree's death.

"Thank you for your letter. It is important that we remember those who have made significant contributions to science and society."

Monster in peril

Garth Ziembe sent from naperville, Ill., an Associated Press story in the June issue of ICMJ's Prospecting & Mining Journal about a mythical monster's being placed on Sweden's endangered species list. Legend has it that the giant serpent has lived for centuries in Lake Storsjoen.

Parliamentary Ombudsman Nils-Olof Berggren learned of the matter from Magnus Cedergren, who wanted to hatch the monster's eggs and rear monster babies as a tourist attraction. He was denied permission. An environmental court had said in a 1986 decision that "it is prohibited to kill, hurt, or catch animals of the Storsjoe monster species or take away or hurt the monster's eggs, roe, or den."

About 500 people claim to have seen the monster, but it hasn't been captured on film. One witness described it as a snakelike animal with a dog's head and fins on its neck. The ombudsman recently asked county officials to send him the documents that led to the 1986 decision.

Car names again

Recent reports about the names of automobiles (C&EN, June 14, page 80) led Dave Roethel, historian of the Washington, D.C., region of the Sports Car Club of America, to explain that the Chevrolet name Nova was constructed from N plus the first letters of the names of three other General Motors cars: Omega (Oldsmobile), Ventura (Buick), and Apollo (Buick).



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