At Caltech: Jean Ensminger New Chair of the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences

PASADENA - She has traveled alone in a war-torn area of Africa and listened to lions pad around her tent at night, but now Jean Ensminger, a professor of anthropology at the California Institute of Technology, takes on a different challenge, as the new chair of the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

In making the announcement, Caltech provost Steve Koonin commented, "Jean brings a distinguished record of teaching and research, fine judgment, and demonstrated management skills to an important position of academic leadership within the Institute. We are very fortunate that someone of her talents is willing to take on this important responsibility."

Ensminger will be the first woman to serve as division chair at Caltech, and will take the helm on June 15, 2002, replacing John Ledyard, a professor of economics and social science, who will be returning, he says, to "the best position in the world: full professor at Caltech." He will redirect his energies to his research in market and organization design, or focus on a new, unrelated area, or "go sailing," he says, "if my boat is still afloat."

For her part, Ensminger is enthusiastic about the prospects for the division, and hopes to build on its successes over the last two decades. "The division has transformed the study of political science and political economy in ways now emulated and dominant in virtually every major university in America," she says, "and is currently incubating several areas of expertise that have the same potential for transforming disciplines as we know them today."

Specifically, she notes that the absence of disciplinary boundaries at Caltech is spawning research that will "reshape the philosophy of mind, behavioral economics, and the frontier between neuroscience, psychology, and economics, while the division's uniquely seamless boundary between literature and history, together with proximity to the Huntington Library, affords us another opportunity to blossom in the humanities."

Ensminger is an uncommon anthropologist: Her line of research is in an area known as experimental economics, a field, she notes, that the division has played a pivotal role in shaping. As an experimental economist, Ensminger is interested in how people make economic decisions. It involves running experiments—described to the participants as games—that use real money in order to learn something about real behavior. Unlike most experimental economists, however, Ensminger takes the method out of the university laboratory to African and other small-scale communities.

The simplest game she uses plays for fairly high stakes, usually a day's wages, whether the game is played in Hamilton, Missouri, or Wayu, Kenya, two places where she has conducted her research. Ensminger will bring a group of people together to play in pairs. Player one is told he or she has, say, $50 to divide with the other person; both will remain anonymous to one another, and player one can give player two any amount or nothing. How is the money divided? More fairly than one might guess, often as high as a 50-50 split.

Even more counterintuitive to conventional economic theorizing, says Ensminger, is that the more involved a society is in a market economy—that is, working for wages, or raising something (crops or cattle) and selling it in order to live—the fairer people tend to be. Across 16 small-scale societies studied around the world, the U.S. is the most fair-minded reported to date, while hunter-gatherers are the least.

For almost 25 years, Ensminger has traveled to Africa, living and studying with the Orma tribe, partially nomadic cattle herders in northeastern Kenya, near the Somali border, where she will return this summer for five weeks. In the beginning, she would live in a tent (on the grounds of a local school), in a place that was frequented by roaming lions at night. Now she stays in the compound of the local chief, but there is a greater danger—banditry.

"My field site became very dangerous in the 1990s because of the collapse of the Somali state," says Ensminger. "There is an ethnic conflict between the Orma and the Somali, who want to take over Orma territory. A phenomenal number of people I know have either been shot or killed by the bandits. It's not a war; it's like the Wild West with armed bandits on the loose."

As a woman traveling alone, carrying cash, and in one of the few cars in the area, she is obviously a target for bandits. And while she feels safe in the Orma villages, she admits to being "unabashedly terrified whenever I go on the roads in and out of that area." Still, that is where 20 years of her research is, and she is not willing to give it up.

It is that kind of perseverance she intends to bring to working with her colleagues as division chair. "I'm honored and delighted to have the opportunity to work with faculty of the extraordinary quality found here, and I look forward to the possibilities and challenges that lie ahead."

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Grants Strengthen Ties and Scholarship between Caltech and Huntington Library

PASADENA, Calif.— The history of the American West, the immigrant experience of Asian Americans, and the volatile years of the British Romantic period are some of the diverse areas of study that will soon be undertaken by the California Institute of Technology, thanks to a $440,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will support four new postdoctoral positions.

In addition, a second grant from the Foundation, for $90,000, will support two seminars that will challenge and spark young scholars in the humanities. The teaching and research efforts of both will be undertaken by a collaboration between Caltech and the Huntington Library, located less than a mile away in San Marino, and will move humanities-related research and teaching forward in a number of new directions.

"Thanks to the generosity and vision of the Mellon Foundation, these new seminars and postdoctoral positions will allow us to further the exciting collaboration between two extraordinary research institutions," explains William Deverell, an associate professor of history at Caltech and the chair of the Caltech Huntington Committee for the Humanities.

The four new appointments will conduct original research and teach in the following fields:

—The Romantic period in British literature. The revolutionary years around 1800, says Caltech's Kevin Gilmartin, an associate professor of literature, were marked by an almost unprecedented intersection of the forces of historical and cultural change in Britain. The young scholar appointed in this field will conduct research in the Huntington's extensive sources devoted to Romantic poetry and fiction, as well as its deep holdings in such materials as Romantic period broadsides, prints, and political satire.

—Asian American history. The scholar appointed to this position will work with a body of material pertaining to the history of Asian migration to the Pacific Coast, as well as related materials addressing Asian American naturalization and citizenship. "Asian American studies is one of the most vibrant areas of American historical inquiry," says Deverell, "and we are particularly excited about welcoming a junior colleague in this field to our group."

—The history of gardens. The new postdoctoral fellow in this field will take advantage of the library's extensive holdings to investigate the natural and cultural histories of gardening, plant cultivation, and species differentiation in both the Old and New Worlds. "The Huntington is not only one of the great botanical gardens of the world," Deverell explains. "The institution's photograph, book, and manuscript collections are also rich sources for study of this fascinating topic."

—The history of the American West. "The Huntington's collections in this field are, again, unparalleled," says Deverell. "We expect to bring in a young scholar whose research would be well served by these collections in print, manuscript, and visual documentation, and in turn we expect that their research and teaching will inform our undergraduates pursuing their Caltech humanities coursework."

The Caltech Huntington Committee for the Humanities (CHCH) will oversee the new postdoctoral program. The CHCH is an "intellectual partnership," says Deverell, that designs and implements collaborative research, teaching, and scholarly programs between the humanities faculty at Caltech and curators from the rare books, manuscripts, and art divisions at the Huntington.

The interpretive seminars will strengthen this scholarship as well, combining the expertise of scholars from both institutions with the rich resources of the Huntington. One seminar, "British Literature and Society in the 1790s", will be taught by Caltech's Gilmartin and Saree Makdisi of the University of Chicago. The second, "Power, Text, and Community in Medieval Europe," will be taught by Caltech's Warren Brown, an assistant professor of history, and Jason Glenn of the University of Southern California.

The history of the Huntington Library—home to such renowned works as the illuminated manuscripts of William Blake, one of the two earliest surviving manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales, and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, circa 1455—has always been intertwined with that of Caltech. In the early twentieth century, George Ellery Hale, who was instrumental in shaping Caltech out of Throop Institute, helped convince railroad magnate and bibliophile Henry E. Huntington to keep his renowned book, art, and manuscript collection in Southern California. Hale believed the two institutions could work in tandem as research institutions of higher learning. Huntington founded his library, art gallery, and botanical gardens in 1919; it was opened to the public in 1928.

"Through programs like these," Deverell suggests, "our small group of humanities scholars can continue to pursue research and teaching at the very highest scholarly levels. This partnership benefits all involved: our faculty, our postdoctoral fellows, and our students. We are exceedingly grateful to the Mellon Foundation and our colleagues at the Huntington Library for their invaluable help in making all this possible.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation makes grants in six core areas: higher education, museums and art conservation, performing arts, population, conservation and the environment, and public affairs. More information about the Foundation and its activities is available on its website: http://www.mellon.org.

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Seventy Percent of Americans Think Bush'sTax Plans Mainly Benefit Wealthy, Study Shows

Seven in 10 Americans think the Bush administration's proposed tax cuts would mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers, according to a national poll conducted by the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology's joint Center for the Study of Law and Politics (CSLP).

The study, which also revealed deep divisions along political and gender lines about how much of a tax cut should be enacted, shows that 29 percent of the public believe Bush's proposals would be of most benefit to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. An additional 41 percent believe the wealthiest 10 percent would be the beneficiaries.

Yet, in polling conducted while the Senate was considering President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax-cut proposal, 44 percent agreed with the president that the size of the cut was "just right"; 41 percent agreed with the majority of the Senate, who sliced the proposal by some $400 billion, that the President's cuts were "too big." Fifteen percent saw President Bush's tax cut as "too small."

"To see so much ambivalence in the American public about tax cuts shows how much work President Bush still has to do," noted Professor R. Michael Alvarez, a political scientist from Caltech associated with the CSLP, and one of the principal investigators of this study.

"It's clear that even though this was the centerpiece issue of his presidential campaign, President Bush has not closed the deal yet on his $1.6 trillion tax cut," Alvarez said.

Professor Edward McCaffery of the USC Law School and Caltech, director of CSLP, and another investigator on the study, noted that tax-cut fever is catching. "Everyone wants something from Uncle Sam, even if they know that others will get more."

Most respondents said they favored income tax cuts across the board (29 percent), followed by elimination of the marriage penalty (17 percent), Social Security or cuts in Medicare taxes (13 percent), elimination of the estate or death tax (11 percent), or new tax credits for retirement accounts (10 percent). Eight percent said they favored no tax cut at all or had no opinion on the matter.

But on this specific breakdown, as on other issues that CSLP is examining, McCaffery noted a pronounced gender gap: "When it comes to tax cuts, men are far more likely to have an opinion, and a positive one; women are less certain about the whole deal."

As an indication of the political fights facing President Bush, Alvarez pointed to the partisan conflict underlying public opinion about the tax cut: "62 percent of Republicans saw the Bush tax cut as `just right,' while 60 percent of Democrats said it is `too large.'" Importantly, survey respondents who said they were independent were divided, with 42 percent saying the Bush tax cuts were `too large' and 42 percent saying they were 'just right,' Alvarez added.

The national probability telephone survey was conducted between March 26 and April 6. Interviews were conducted by Interview Services of America, Inc. Fifteen hundred American adults were interviewed, with a margin of error for the sample of +/- 2.5 percent.

 

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Caltech/MIT Issue Voting Technology Report to Florida Task Force

PASADENA, Calif.- The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project has submitted a preliminary report to the task force studying the election in Florida. Their nationwide study of voting machines offers further evidence supporting the task force's call to replace punch card voting in Florida. The statistical analysis also uncovered a more surprising finding: electronic voting, as currently implemented, has performed less well than was widely believed.

The report examines the effect of voting technologies on unmarked and/or spoiled ballots. Researchers from both universities are collaboratively studying five voting technologies: paper ballots with hand-marked votes, lever machines, punch cards, optical scanning devices, and direct-recording electronic devices (DREs), which are similar to automatic teller machines.

The study focuses on so-called "undervotes" and "overvotes," which are combined into a group of uncounted ballots called "residual votes." These include ballots with votes for more than one candidate, with no vote, or that are marked in a way that is uncountable.

Careful statistical analysis shows that there are systematic differences across these technologies, and that paper ballots, optical scanning devices, and lever machines have significantly lower residual voting rates than punch-card systems and DREs. Overall, the residual voting rate for the first three systems averages about 2 percent, and for the last two systems averages about 3 percent. This study is the most extensive analysis ever of the effects of voting technology on under- and overvotes. The study covers the entire country for all presidential elections since 1988, and examines variations at the county level. When the study is complete, it will encompass presidential elections going back to 1980, and will examine a finer breakdown of the different technologies, and a breakdown of residual votes into its two components: over- and undervotes. A final report will be released in June. The Voting Project was the brainchild of California Institute of Technology president David Baltimore in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Charles Vest. It was announced in December 2000 and faculty from both campuses immediately began collecting data and studying the range of voting methods across the nation in the hope of avoiding in the future the vote-counting chaos that followed the 2000 presidential election.

The analysis is complicated by the fact that voting systems vary from county to county and across time. When a voting system is switched, say from lever machines to DREs, the number of residual votes can go up due to voter unfamiliarity with the new technology.

"We don't want to give the impression that electronic systems are necessarily inaccurate, but there is much room for improvement," said Thomas Palfrey, Caltech professor of economics and political science.

"Electronic voting technology is in its infancy and seems the most likely one to benefit significantly from new innovations and increased voter familiarity," states the 11-page report.

Caltech Contact: Jill Perry Media Relations (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

MIT Contact: Kenneth Campbell News Office (617) 253-2700 kdc@mit.edu

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Caltech and MIT Join Forces to Create Reliable, Uniform Voting System

Caltech and MIT are joining forces to develop a United States voting system that will be easy to use, reliable, secure and modestly priced, the presidents of the two universities announced today.

"America needs a uniform balloting procedure," said Caltech President David Baltimore and MIT President Charles M. Vest in a letter to Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian who is recommending the corporation fund the initial research. "This has become painfully obvious in the current national election, but the issue is deeper and broader than one series of events."

Vest and Baltimore said the new technology "should minimize the possibility of confusion about how to vote, and offer clear verification of what vote is to be recorded. It should decrease to near zero the probability of miscounting votes... The voting technology should be tamper resistant and should minimize the prospect of manipulation and fraud."

The two university presidents proposed that their prestigious institutions give the project high priority for two major reasons:

"First, the technologies in wide use today are unacceptably unreliable. This manifests itself in at least three forms: undercounts (failure to correctly record a choice of candidate), overcounts (voting for two candidates), and missed ballots (machine failure or feeding error). Punch cards and optically scanned ballots are two of the most widely used technologies, and both suffer unacceptably high error rates in all three categories. For example, in the recent Florida election, optical scanning technology had an undercount rate of approximately 3 out of 1,000, and the punch card undercount rate was approximately 15 out of 1,000. Including the other two sources of errors, the overall ballot failure rate with machine counting was about three times this.

"Second, some of the most common types of machinery date from the late nineteenth century and have become obsolete. Most notably, many models of lever machines are no longer manufactured, and although spare parts are difficult to obtain, they are still widely used (accounting for roughly 15 percent of all ballots cast).

"States and municipalities using lever machines will have to replace them in the near future, and the two most common alternatives are punch cards and optical scanning devices. Ironically, many localities in Massachusetts have recently opted for lever machines over punch card ballots because of problems with punch cards registering preferences. "

Gregorian of Carnegie Corporation of New York, will recommend a grant of $250,000 to fund the initial research.

"I want to congratulate the two presidents of our nation's most distinguished universities for their leadership in this welcome and timely initiative on behalf of our election system," said Gregorian. "Voting is the fundamental safeguard of our democracy and we have the technological power to ensure that every person's vote does count. MIT and Caltech have assembled a team of America's top technology and political science scholars to deal with an issue no voter wants ignored. This research is certain to ensure that America's voting process is strengthened."

The project will involve a team of two professors from each university who are experts in technology, design and political science. Initially, they will be charged with defining the problem, surveying experiences with existing voting devices, and making a preliminary analysis of a variety of technological approaches. They will also set goals and create a plan for full-scale research and development of the new system.

The four members of the team are Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professors Stephen Ansolabehere of political science and Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the Media Lab; and Caltech Professors Thomas Palfrey of political science and economics and Jehoshua Bruck of computation and neural systems and electrical engineering. Vest and Baltimore noted their credentials:

"Professors Ansolabehere and Palfrey have deep knowledge of the U.S. electoral process, have facility in tapping into what is known about existing voting systems and equipment, and have expertise in performing the statistical analyses that will be an integral part of the study. Equally important, any system that is suggested must be politically acceptable. Professors Ansolabehere and Palfrey will undertake a consultative process with the various relevant levels of government to find a solution with a reasonable likelihood of acceptance.

"Professor Negroponte and his MIT Media Lab colleagues and Professor Bruck at Caltech combine capabilities in technology, cognitive science, and graphic design. They can assess the various voting schemes that are currently available and, if necessary, design a new system that fulfills the technological and political needs of a fair voting process."

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Caltech Contact: Robert Tindol Media Relations (626) 395-3631

MIT Contact: Kenneth Campbell News Office (617) 253-2700

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Pasadena philanthropists donate $1.1 million for Caltech writing center and student writing award

PASADENA—The California Institute of Technology has received a $1.1 million gift from Pasadena philanthropists Alexander and Adelaide Hixon for the creation of a new writing center and an annual undergraduate writing prize.

The gift will be used to establish the Alexander P. and Adelaide F. Hixon Writing Center, which will be available for use by the Caltech student body. The center will be directed by a professional with credentials in composition and rhetoric, and will provide a range of instruction and services in basic composition.

The center's offerings will supplement the curriculum of the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which has traditionally provided the bulk of writing instruction to the student body through various courses. In particular, Caltech freshmen have received their primary writing instruction in their sequence of two freshman humanities courses that cover rhetoric and composition and also serve as an introduction to college-level work in the humanities disciplines, as well as more specialized upper-level humanities classes. All humanities courses, with the exception of those in foreign languages, have a writing requirement of at least 4,000 words.

The creation of the writing center is especially welcome in the light of recent reforms to the humanities curriculum. These reforms reflect the faculty's commitment to giving Caltech's undergraduates a serious introduction to the humanities (in particular history, literature, philosophy, art history, music, and languages), while emphasizing their writing skills.

All freshmen will take a writing examination at the beginning of the academic year, and basic composition courses will be required of those students who need help with writing skills. Beyond that, students will also have to pass a writing proficiency requirement in each of their freshman humanities courses.

Those students who do not meet the required standard will be directed to take a composition course to improve their ability to write flowing, coherent prose and to structure an argument. The writing center will provide these courses. It will, moreover, be a permanent resource for all students-undergraduates and graduates-who seek assistance in the composition of their papers, reports, and applications.

The Hixon gift also provides funding for the Hixon Prize for Writing, which will be awarded annually to a student for the best composition in a freshman humanities course. The prize will be administered by the writing center and the winner will be chosen by a special committee, with preference given to the paper best illustrating the relationship between the humanities and science and or engineering. The winner will receive a cash award of at least $1,000.

"The Hixon Writing Center will add a significant component to our undergraduate education program, greatly enhancing our ability to foster students' communication skills," said David Baltimore, president of Caltech. "Furthermore, rewarding those students who show excellence in writing is a great way to reinforce the importance of those skills."

The Hixons are both members of the Caltech Associates, a support group whose donations assist in the development of the research and educational programs at Caltech. Adelaide Hixon also serves on the Associates Board.

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Latinos Like Gore's Position on Issues, but Are Lukewarm on Gore as a Candidate, Expert Says

PASADENA—In a year when Latinos overwhelmingly favor the Democrats on the issues, one would expect Al Gore to have a huge lead over George W. Bush in polls of Latino voters.

But he doesn't—and no one really knows why, says R. Michael Alvarez, a professor of political science at the California Institute of Technology and an authority on Latino voting patterns.

"Al Gore is having a problem connecting with Latinos right now," says Alvarez, who was outside consultant for Knight Ridder on their 2000 Hispanic Voter Poll. The poll of 2,700 Latino voters nationwide showed that the most important issues, in descending order, are education, crime and drugs, and health care.

Eighty percent of the voters polled think the Democrats have the upper hand on those issues, Alvarez says.

"You'd expect Gore to be really far ahead of Bush, but he's only 16 percent ahead," he says. "So Latinos are evaluating Gore as a better candidate on the issues, but they're just not falling into his election coalition at this point."

And not only does Bush garner an unusually high level of Latino support for a Republican, but he also polls well with crossover voters. In the Knight Ridder poll, about 8 percent of Latino Republicans said they would vote for Gore, while 16 percent of Latino Democrats said they'd vote for Bush.

Also unexpectedly, the language issue seems to be working in Bush's favor. Both major candidates speak Spanish and often do so on the stump, but Bush speaks a colloquial form he apparently picked up during his years in Texas.

"Gore speaks a textbooky, Harvardy sort of Spanish," says Alvarez, speculating that the Democratic candidate likely studied the language during his college years at Harvard.

"Bush speaks more of a colloquial, Texas sort of Spanish, and Mexican-Americans here in Los Angeles probably connect better with that than Gore's textbook kind of Spanish."

Other than the slight advantage in language style, Alvarez doesn't see why Gore is not doing better—other than perhaps his often-discussed problems in connecting with voters in general.

But the findings of the poll are not necessarily bleak for Gore. He's still ahead with Latino voters, and there's good reason to think that much of Bush's support is weak, Alvarez says.

"Gore will almost certainly win California, but if he's not doing so well with Latino voters, he may have to spend more time campaigning here this fall than he would like."

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Caltech Professor Colin F. Camerer Elected as a Fellow of the Econometric Society

PASADENA—Colin F. Camerer, the Rea A. and Lela G. Axline Professor of Business Economics at the California Institute of Technology, was named a 1999 Fellow of the Econometric Society. He was elected for his research in experimental and behavioral economics.

Camerer integrates psychology with economics to explore its impact on decision sciences and game theory. His research uses economics experiments and field studies to understand how people behave when making decisions.

"Traditional economic models assume that people are rational and self-interested, that they have complete and separable preferences that trade off with time," Camerer explains. "This has the potential to go against human nature. People get angry and lose self-control; they trade long-term benefits for short-term benefits. Many make decisions based on sympathy." Camerer's research tries to incorporate limits on cognitive capacity, will power, and self-interest into economic and decision analysis.

"Such research will not only be helpful in predicting economic trends, but in understanding social policy," Camerer foresees. "Poverty, war, cross-cultural interactions—most social issues are affected by decision psychology. The goal is to help comprehend these issues by finding a more general mathematical theory that matches what we know about human psychology."

Founded in 1930, the Econometric Society is an international association that promotes the advancement of economic theory in its relation to statistics and mathematics. Fellows of the Econometric Society are elected based on their research contributions to economic theory, or to statistical or accounting analyses that have a definite bearing on economic modeling.

Of the approximately 500 Fellows of the Econometric Society, Camerer is one of the few who is interested in behavioral economics. "I have the difficult task of having to please two masters: the psychological and the economic," Camerer relates. "Many economists are skeptical about combining psychology and economics. My election gives legitimacy to this field."

Contact: Mohi Kumar (626) 395-8733 mohi@its.caltech.edu

Visit the Caltech Media Relations Web site at: http://www.caltech.edu/~media

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Caltech Humanities Professor Daniel J. Kevles Honored by the History of Science Society

PASADENA—California Institute of Technology humanities professor Daniel J. Kevles was awarded the History of Science Society's 1999 Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize for his book The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science, and Character. This prize, named in honor of the longtime director of Science Service and his wife, is awarded annually to the author of a book that promotes public understanding of the history of science.

The Baltimore Case delves into the details of the decade-long scandal surrounding biologist, Nobel laureate, and current Caltech president David Baltimore, who defended colleague Thereza Imanishi-Kari when she was falsely accused of fraudulent research. These accusations were taken to the Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services, where, without the benefit of due process, Imanishi-Kari was found guilty of scientific misconduct.

"Imanishi-Kari had not had a fair trial," writes Kevles in his book. "She had been convicted in the court of public opinion and nowhere else." Imanishi-Kari later appealed, and 10 years after the accusations began, she was exonerated. Kevles stresses in the preface, "At its core, this book is the story of how a great injustice was perpetrated in the name of scientific integrity and the public trust, and how it then came to be remedied, or remedied as much as it could be after its weight had been endured for a decade."

The prize citation applauds Kevles's story for being both "a morality tale of personal courage under the most trying of circumstances and an object lesson in how difficult it is to preserve the independence and integrity of science in an age when [the] government pays billions of dollars for research and demands accountability." The citation continues, "In light of the high significance and undeniable resonance of such issues for a broad and non-academic public, we are pleased to award . . . Kevles for his unforgettable portrayal of the Baltimore Case."

Founded 75 years ago, the History of Science Society (HSS) is a national organization of learning dedicated to understanding science, technology, medicine, and their interactions with society over time. The Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize itself was established in 1985 through a long-term grant from the Davis family. Kevles was honored at the HSS semi-sesquicentennial anniversary meeting, held in Pittsburgh in November, where he received a certificate commemorating his achievement and a $1,000 prize.

Kevles, the J. O. and Juliette Koepfli Professor of the Humanities, has been a member of the Caltech faculty since 1964. His research interests include the history of modern science, science and society, and modern American history. His other books include In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985) and The Physicists: The History of a Scientific Community in Modern America (Alfred A. Knopf, 1978). The Baltimore Case (W. W. Norton, 1998) was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and will be available in paperback this January.

Contact: Mohi Kumar (626) 395-8733 mohi@its.caltech.edu

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Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels and Tarzana suburb both reflected a "white flight" mentality, researcher says

PASADENA-Whether Edgar Rice Burroughs was writing his successful Tarzan novels or promoting his early-20th-century suburb, Tarzana, he always seemed to be making the world safe for bwana.

That's the conclusion of Catherine Jurca, an assistant professor of literature at the California Institute of Technology. Jurca is writing a book tentatively titled "White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth-Century American Novel." One chapter examines Tarzan in light of Burroughs' activities as a suburban real-estate developer in Los Angeles.

In the 1912 novel "Tarzan of the Apes," Tarzan is driven primarily to protect his jungle house from a tribe of unruly Africans and also to find other white people "like himself," Jurca explains in an earlier article in the Modern Language Quarterly.

Thus "'Tarzan of the Apes' begins to look more like a novel of white flight than white rule."

Though isolated since infancy from Western civilization, the savage jungle king grows into a strapping example of idealized Western manhood. The transition is fostered by his parents' house and its contents, which teach him about his noble Anglo-Saxon identity and birthright.

Jurca's main interest is in the ways that the original Tarzan series exemplified ways of thinking that led to the ascendancy of suburbia-particularly the urge many white Americans apparently felt to get away from the central city and minorities.

"The primacy of white community and isolation from minorities have been central to the development of the American suburb, as exemplified in Burroughs's 1920s subdivision of Tarzana-named, after all, for a character whose name means 'White Skin' in the language of the apes," she says.

When Burroughs got rich and famous in Chicago for writing the Tarzan books, he moved West and bought up several hundred acres in the San Fernando Valley, northwest of downtown Los Angeles-a property he named Tarzana.

"Burroughs actively encouraged 'the sort of folks to come here whom I want for neighbors,'" according to the journal article. His ambition was abetted by the racial covenants that subjected all property sold in the subdivision to the following constraints: "That said premises or any part thereof shall not be leased, sold or conveyed to or occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race."

Of course, such covenants have not been enforceable for many decades, but the similarities in attitude toward race seen in Burroughs' Tarzan character and the people the author hoped to lure to his suburb may speak volumes about the thinking that originally went into the expansion of American suburbia.

Burroughs apparently wasn't all that successful in subdividing and creating his own haven north of Los Angeles. But decades later, Tarzana and countless other suburbs indeed became for a time the predominantly white enclaves that Burroughs envisioned. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times Sunday opinion section, the San Fernando Valley was the embodiment of white suburbia in the 1960s, with more than 90 percent of its inhabitants being white.

"True to the namesake who personifies 'White-Skin,'" Jurca writes, "Tarzana evolved along the lines of other 20th-century suburbs, as a place designed to ensure that Anglo-American civilization could thrive in isolation and where ordinary white people could become extraordinary Anglo-Saxons."

But this may be temporary-at least in the case of the San Fernando Valley. As the Times article pointed out, the suburbs of the Valley have become a bit more ethnically diversified in the last couple of decades. Tarzana, according to the Times demographics Web site, currently has a population of 71,680-80 percent of whom are white.

Though Jurca feels the original Tarzan novels are troubling in their attitude toward race, she points out that the myth and the character have been quite pliable in the hands of later artists. For example, the recent Disney film, far from embodying a segregationist message, has Tarzan make a vivid and compelling argument for diversity and cooperation.

Also ironically, the modern community of Tarzana has been more receptive to the Tarzan association in recent years, Jurca says. In past decades, the community wasn't too keen on the connection.

"Tarzana residents didn't really take to being associated with an ape-man, however noble," says Jurca, who grew up there. "For years the Tarzana public library refused to carry Burroughs' books."

"But all this has changed, especially with the film, as the Tarzan connection becomes a useful way to distinguish what is essentially a very unextraordinary postwar residential community from all the other unextraordinary postwar communities that constitute the San Fernando Valley."

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