Press contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639; Tiffany Lohwater, (202) 326-8737
Public contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692
Website: Webcast

June 19, 2007

Origins of Life and Universe To Be Discussed by Nobel Scientists John Mather and Craig Mello, July 26

Two 2006 Nobel Prize winners will address the fundamental questions pondered by many through the ages: the origins of life and the universe.

Free and open to the public, the event, "On the Origins of Life and the Universe: An Afternoon with 2006 Nobel Laureates Craig Mello and John Mather," will be held at the Library of Congress from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 26, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Tickets and reservations are not required, but seating is limited. The program will be webcast live at

The presentation is sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center and the Science, Business and Technology Division of the Library of Congress, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

John Mather, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics, at 2 p.m., will present the talk "From the Big Bang to the Nobel Prize." He will discuss the history of the universe in a nutshell – how the universe began with a Big Bang, how it produced an Earth where sentient beings can live and how those beings are discovering their history. Mather also will discuss NASA’s plans for the next great telescope in space, the James Webb Space Telescope. Planned for launch in 2013, the new telescope will explore the first galaxies formed in the universe and investigate where stars and planets are being born today.

Craig Mello, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, at 3 p.m., will give a lecture titled "Life on a Cosmic Scale: From the Primordial Soup to a Nobel Prize-Winning Worm." He will reveal what worms, petunias and humans have in common and what this means for the future prospects of life on Earth and beyond. Mello also will explain how RNA interference (RNAi) works and describe how, along with the human genome sequence, it promises to revolutionize medicine.

Mather, recently named chief scientist at NASA, is an astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center and leads the James Webb Space Telescope science team. He served as project scientist for NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, which measured the spectrum of heat radiation from the Big Bang. As principal investigator for the Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer on COBE, he showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy.

Mello is the Blais Professor of Molecular Medicine and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His research is focused on gene regulation during development and the mechanism of RNA interference. Along with Andrew Fire and colleagues, Mello reported in 1998 that double-stranded RNA can induce sequence-specific gene silencing in animals. Along with researchers around the world, Mello and colleagues went on to show that the underlying mechanism is conserved in numerous other organisms, including humans, and is essential for human life.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate, energize and distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information on fellowships, grants and programs offered by the Kluge Center, visit

The Science, Technology and Business Division of the Library of Congress provides reference and bibliographic services and develops the Library’s rich and vast collections in all areas of science (with the exception of clinical medicine and technical agriculture), technology, business, management and economics. For more information, visit and

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science ( AAAS, founded in 1848, has 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, visit EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

# # #

PR 07-136
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top