Share this:
05/13/1997 07:00:00

Nobel Prize-winning Biologist David Baltimore Named President of the California Institute of Technology

PASADENA— Dr. David Baltimore, one of the world's leading scientists and winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize for his work in virology, has been appointed president of the California Institute of Technology. The announcement was made Tuesday, May 13, by Dr. Gordon E. Moore, chair of Caltech's Board of Trustees.

Baltimore will assume the presidency this autumn, succeeding Dr. Thomas E. Everhart, who has served for the past 10 years.

"David Baltimore is perhaps the most influential living biologist, and surely one of the most accomplished," Moore said on announcing the appointment. "He is our nation's leader in the effort to create an AIDS vaccine, and he was a major player in the creation of a national science policy consensus on recombinant DNA research.

"In the coming decade there may be rapid and remarkable changes in the relationships between research universities and government, industry, and society," Moore continued. "Dr. Baltimore's wisdom and his proven abilities as an educator, researcher, administrator, and public advocate for science and engineering make him an outstanding choice to lead Caltech through this period of change and into the 21st century. I look forward to working with him to make our Institute even greater in the future than it has been in the past."

Baltimore is currently Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was founding director of MIT's Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and served from the institute's creation in 1982 to 1990, when he became president of Rockefeller University.

He played a pivotal role with Paul Berg, Maxine Singer, and several other eminent biologists in the mid-1970s in creating a consensus on national science policy regarding recombinant DNA research. This nationwide effort helped allay reservations about genetics research, and also established research standards that are followed by the genetics community to this day.

Baltimore has also been a major figure in Washington as head of the National Institutes of Health AIDS Vaccine Research Committee, and also in 1986 as co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine's committee on a National Strategy for AIDS.

"The faculty's presidential search committee is enthusiastic about the trustees' selection of David Baltimore as Caltech's new president," said Dr. Kip Thorne, Caltech's Feynman Professor of Physics and chair of the faculty's Presidential Search Committee. "He will be an outstanding successor to Dr. Thomas E. Everhart, who has so ably led Caltech for the past decade.

"Dr. Baltimore's colleagues have described him to us as subtle, perceptive, and keenly insightful about people and complex issues, and as having the mind of a humanist as well as a scientist. Caltech's faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends will find him a fascinating person with whom to work and from whom to learn."

Baltimore said, "It is a deep and special honor to be asked to serve as President of Caltech. I am humbled by the faith placed in me by Gordon Moore and the Caltech trustees, as well as by the faculty committee chaired by Kip Thorne.

"In moving to Caltech, my life will certainly alter, but there is one responsibility that I will continue to pursue with unabated vigor," he added. "Six months ago I accepted the chairmanship of the AIDS Vaccine Research Committee of the National Institutes of Health. That was a long-term commitment, and the committee has only just started to reshape the vaccine research program.

"The trustees of Caltech have recognized the importance of that activity and have agreed with enthusiasm that I should continue to devote myself to this activity. "The next decade promises to be an exciting one for the sciences: brain science is coming to the fore in biology, astronomy has powerful new tools, major questions in physics are being approached with new tools, to name but a few areas of opportunity," Baltimore said. "Caltech is positioned to play a major role in many of the advances in science and engineering. To lead Caltech during this time is a great privilege and I look forward to the coming years with excitement."

Baltimore, 59, was born in New York City and earned his doctorate at Rockefeller University. He did postdoctoral work at MIT, and later worked as a research associate at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., from 1965 to 1968.

He joined the MIT faculty in 1968, and was appointed to a full professorship in 1972. After founding the Whitehead Institute, he served as its first director until 1990. He was a professor at Rockefeller University from 1990 to 1994, and Rockefeller's president in 1990 and 1991. Since 1994, he has been the Ivan R. Cottrell Professor of Molecular Biology and Immunology and the American Cancer Society Research Professor at MIT.

His honors include the 1970 Gustave Stern Award in Virology; the 1971 Eli Lilly and Co. Award in Microbiology and Immunology; the 1974 National Academy of Sciences' United States Steel Award in Molecular Biology; and the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

He was named to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974, and in 1978 was elected a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a foreign member of the Royal Society in England, and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

He is married to Dr. Alice Huang, Dean for Science at New York University and also an eminent biologist. The Baltimores have a daughter, Lauren, who recently graduated from Yale and now works in New York City.

Baltimore becomes the 24th Nobel Laureate to be associated with the California Institute of Technology.

Caltech is one of the world's leading research centers, with several programs rated No. 1 by the most recent National Research Council's Research Doctoral Programs in the United States. Among these are astrophysics and astronomy, geosciences, and chemistry. The Institute has several outstanding off-campus facilities, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that it manages for NASA, Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, the twin telescopes of the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) currently being built in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana.

The Institute has about 900 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students, both groups of which are among the most carefully selected and competitive in higher education. Faculty members and alumni have won 25 Nobel Prizes (Linus Pauling was awarded Nobel Prizes in both chemistry and peace), and have also won many other major scientific awards and distinctions.

The Institute traces its origins to Throop University, founded in 1891 by early Pasadena resident Amos G. Throop. The school underwent a fundamental redirection in the early 20th century with the arrival of three outstanding scientists — George Ellery Hale, Robert Andrews Millikan, and Arthur A. Noyes. These three men were pivotal in setting the institution (renamed the California Institute of Technology in 1920) on the course of cutting-edge scientific research on which it remains to this day.

Millikan led the Institute until 1946, when Lee DuBridge became the first individual to hold the formal title of president. DuBridge was followed by Harold Brown (who later served as Secretary of Defense during the Carter Administration), Marvin L. Goldberger, and most recently, Thomas E. Everhart.