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"The Century of Science"

Old and new Academy friends gather to celebrate science at NYAS' Fifth Annual President's Reception.

Published August 10, 2009

The Academy prides itself on being an institution that builds bridges and establishes connections between people who might otherwise not have the chance to get together. One good example was the Fifth Annual President’s Reception in June, where scores of scientists, physicians, philanthropists, artists, entrepreneurs and others gathered to celebrate NYAS’ role in supporting science and scientists worldwide.

President Ellis Rubinstein took particular note of the mix of long-time Academy friends and new members of NYAS' growing circle.

“When I was running a scientific conference on regenerative medicine in Beijing," he said, "the Minister of Health of China … opened the conference by saying that the most important thing in life is the friendships that you make and the ones that you retain by the end of your life. I thought, ‘that’s an unusual thing for a scientist to say at the beginning of a scientific meeting. But it's appropriate for this group here.”

Others addressing the audience included inventor Dean Kamen, who holds more than 440 patents on products ranging from the Segway transporter to the wearable infusion pump, and Academy Governor and Columbia University string theorist Brian Greene, the impetus behind the novel World Science Festival in New York City.

Greene used the occasion to kick off the Festival, outlining the eclectic range of programming that has come to characterize this engaging annual exploration of science and culture. Kamen then introduced the audience to the success he’s had engaging young people in science and technology through his national robot-building contest, known as FIRST, which treats this technical challenge like a major sports competition. Teams from nearly 17,000 schools in 43 US cities participate in FIRST program, backed by 85,000 scientists and engineers who serve as volunteer mentors.

“Kids are so distracted by what appear to be more exciting alternative career options than science, technology, inventing, and innovating, which … astounds me,” Kamen said. “Every major career opportunity they’re going to have available to them in the next 10 or 20 years is going to require a fundamental appreciation and awareness of science and technology -- even if they don’t want to be a scientist or a technologist!”

NYU President and Academy Board Chair John Sexton echoed that sentiment in closing remarks.

“We have entered the century that will be defined by science,” he said. “It will be critical that we do all we can … to push the awareness of science as deeply as possible into society.” And NYAS, he added, has a unique capacity to serve that convening and catalyzing role.

“That’s why I’m committed to it” he added. “That’s the vision of it that I hope all of you see.”