Sketches of the Honorary Degree Recipients

Dr. Isabella Lugoski Karle

Head of the X-ray Diffraction Section, Laboratory for the Structure of Matter at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Dr. Karle is the scientist whose experimental procedures are used worldwide for molecular structure analysis using electron and X-ray diffraction techniques. Among other things, Dr. Ralph Hirschmann of Penn Chemistry notes, her work has formed the basis for all the current computer programs that are used in a "black box" fashion for the more than 10,000 new crystal structure analyses per year that are published or recorded in the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Base.

Dr. Karle earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1944, when she was 22 years old. She and her husband, Jerome Karle, began working at the Naval Research Lab in 1946. Her husband, now chief scientist at NRL's Laboratory for the Structure of Matter, began working on so-called direct methods for analyzing crystal structures. In the 1950s, Isabella Karle sought practical applications for her husband's mathematical theories. She taught herself X-ray crystallography from textbooks and in 1963, she introduced the "Symbolic Addition Procedure," which revolutionized the types and complexity of problems that can be solved by analyzing crystal structures.

She has used her method to perform structural studies of complex proteins, leading to a better understanding of their functions (her analysis of the structure of Leu-zervamicin, an antibiotic, shows that conformational changes in the antibiotic create a "molecular gate" through which ions may be transported across cell membranes; and she was the first to obtain the formulas and the first structures of the polycyclic products resulting from photorearrangements of amino acid derivatives and nucleic acid bases by exposure to UV radiation. Another major portion of her research activities has been directed toward the structures of peptides and her seminal contributions there are of particular importance to medicinal chemists interested in drug design.

A recipient of the National Medal of Science and the first woman to receive the Bower Award, Dr. Karle is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1995 she was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences for her key role in developing multi-disciplinary applications for determining crystalline and molecular structures using X-ray and electron diffraction.

Billie Jean King

Director, Co-Founder and CEO, WORLD TEAMTENNIS

For more than 20 years, until she retired from active playing in 1984, Billie Jean King dominated the world of tennis, winning 20 Wimbledon titles, 13 U.S. Open titles, the French Open, the Australian Open and 20 Virginia Slims singles titles. She was ranked the number one player seven times between 1966 and 1974.

Ms. King's drive turned women's tennis into a major professional sport and spearheaded the drive for equal prize money and equal treatment of women. Breaking down barriers and changing the American perception of women in sports, she helped establish the Virginia Slims professional tour in 1970, and founded the Women's Tennis Association and the Women's Sports Foundation.

Ms. King was 18 when she upset Margaret Court-Smith, the world's leading women's tennis player, at Wimbledon in 1962. In 1967 she became the first woman since 1939 to win the triple crown of singles, doubles and mixed doubles in both the British and American championships. She was the first woman to be named Sports Illustrated's "Sportsperson of the Year"; and the first woman to coach a co-ed professional sports team (the Philadelphia Freedom, 1974). In 1976, she was named Woman of the Year by Time magazine.

In 1981, Ms. King founded the WTT, and has served as it commissioner since 1984. WTT, America's only professional co-ed team sport, also sponsors recreational leagues and championships and, in the fall of each year, helps host Smash Hits, a celebrity event which benefits the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Billie Jean King has ranked No. 5 on the Sports Illustrated top 40 Athletes list and was the highest ranked of the four women on the list appearing in the magazine's 40th anniversary issue. She was named one of Life magazine's 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century. In April 1994, she was awarded the March of Dimes' Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Gerda Lerner

Robinson-Edwards Professor of History Emerita, University of Wisconsin

Dr. Gerda Lerner is a pioneer in women's history who, in building at Wisconsin the premier Ph.D. program in African-American Women's History, created and nurtured an entirely new discipline of academic study.

Born to a Jewish family in Vienna in 1920, Gerda Lerner was imprisoned when the Nazis came to power. In 1938, she fled Austria for the United States, where she initially worked in a series of menial jobs, married and had two children, and participated in civic affairs. At the age of 38, she began taking history courses to research a fictionalized biography of two 19th century feminists, but abandoned the project in favor of training as a historian. After earning her B.A. from the New School of Social Research in 1962 she went to Columbia, earning M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history within three years.

Since then she has gone on to teach what is believed to be the first postwar college course on women's history, and to establishing at Sarah Lawrence College the country's first graduate program in Women's History.

Among her ten books, Black Women in White America (1972) was for a decade the only general book on the subject available for teaching. In 1997, she published Why History Matters, calling upon all to reconsider not just the purposes of scholarship, but its place in the larger world.

In The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, Dr. Lerner found great women writers and thinkers all the way back to the Middle Ages-women who wrote on such subjects as medicine, science, theology, Bible interpretation, ethics, arithmetic, geography, astronomy, music, languages, and feminism but did so in isolation as their predecessors' work was not part of the academic canon. Her latest book, Why History Matters (1997), reminds readers that people who ignore their past, as Santayana said, are doomed to repeat it. "History is under attack in this culture, but much worse, it is being ignored....If you keep people ignorant of their past, you can do almost anything in social engineering."

A founding member of the National Organization for Women, she helped establish March as Women's History Month. She also was instrumental in enabling the Writers Guild to identify the real writers of numerous screenplays who had not been given credit for their work because they had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

In 1981, she became the first woman in 50 years to be named president of the Organization of American Historians. Her 1986 book The Creation of Patriarchy won the Joan Kelly Memorial Book Prize. In 1993, she was listed as one of America's "women of the century," in a survey of academics conducted by Siena College Research Institute and the National Women's Hall of Fame, ranking sixth in the Humanities, just after Margaret Mead.

Robert E. Rubin

Secretary of the U.S. Treasury
(for Secretary Rubin's background, see Almanac March 23).


Dr. Earl R. Stadtman

Chief, Section on Enzymes, Laboratory of Biochemistry, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute National Institutes of Health

Dr. Stadtman is an internationally known pioneer in the field of enzyme regulation whose early work has led to recent investigations in the basic biology of aging, including studies of the role of oxygen radicals and the mechanisms of repair in damaged cells. Along with his notable achievements as a scientist are notable comes a lifelong role as a mentor who is "revered for giving junior colleagues responsibility and authorship," as one has put it. Among the many eminent scientists whose careers he helped to shape are P. Roy Vagelos, Michael S. Brown and Stanley N. Prusiner.

After taking his Ph.D. from the University of California in Berkeley in 1949, Dr. Stadtman joined the NIH in 1950. Since then he has been associated with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), serving as Chief of the NHLBI's Laboratory of Biochemistry from 1962 to 1994 as well as Chief of the Laboratory's Section on Enzymes for the past 30 years.

Dr. Stadtman's greatest discovery was the observation that the bacterial enzyme glutamine synthetase is controlled by the attachment of specific chemical groups called adenylates. This discovery was made simultaneously with the discovery by others that enzymes in animals are regulated by the chemical attachment of phosphate groups. Together, these two lines of investigation opened up the field of chemical modification of enzymes, which has had profound consequences for all subsequent knowledge of biologic regulation. It is the basis of much of the excitement in diverse fields such as developmental biology, cancer and neuroscience.

Dr. Stadtman's demonstration that metal catalyzed oxidation (MCO) of enzymes is a marking step in protein turnover and that the accumulation of oxidized protein is likely implicated in aging was published as a single-authored paper in Science in 1992. He continues an active career of research and publishing today.

A winner of the National Medal of Science and the Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry, Dr. Stadtman is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 27, April 6, 1999