April 16, 2012 David Grinspoon Named the First Chair in Astrobiology At John W. Kluge Center

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has named David H. Grinspoon the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. The chair is a joint project between the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Kluge Center.

Grinspoon is the curator of astrobiology in the Department of Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He is a well-known researcher in planetary science and the author of “Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life.”

Astrobiology is the study of the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. It addresses three fundamental questions: How did life begin and evolve? Is there life elsewhere? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond? As the chair, Grinspoon will conduct research at the intersection of the science of astrobiology and its humanistic aspects, particularly its societal implications.

This new chair at the Kluge Center is the result of a collaboration between NASA and the Library of Congress and is named for Baruch “Barry” Blumberg, the late Kluge Center Scholars Council member, Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, “It brings me great pleasure to bring to fruition Barry Blumberg’s vision of two great institutions working together to explore the societal implications of this emerging new interdisciplinary field of study and to make use of the Library of Congress’ unique multidisciplinary collections.”

NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl Pilcher said, “Grinspoon will conduct a very exciting investigation of how the insights and scientific culture of astrobiology can inform the choices facing humanity in the coming decades. His background as an astrobiology researcher, writer and communicator of science makes him an ideal choice to begin what we hope will become a great tradition of astrobiology chairs at the Library.”

While at the Kluge Center, from November 2012 through November 2013, Grinspoon will examine choices facing humanity as we enter the Anthropocene Era, the epoch when human activities are becoming a defining characteristic of the physical nature and functioning of Earth. His research will include studies of the role of planetary exploration in fostering scientific and public understanding of climate change and the power of astrobiology as a model of interdisciplinary research and communication.

Blumberg was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of the Hepatitis B virus and development of a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B infection. He served as NASA Astrobiology Institute director from 1999 to 2002. He was elected president of the American Philosophical Society in 2005. At the Library of Congress, Blumberg was a founding member of the Scholars Council, distinguished scholars who advise the Librarian of Congress on matters of scholarship.

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 and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library's rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information about the Kluge Center. Visit www.loc.gov/kluge/.


PR 12-080
ISSN 0731-3527