January 10, 2014 Leading Authorities in Astrobiology to Discuss the Societal Implications of the Search for Life in the Universe

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jason Steinhauer (202) 707-0213; Dan Turello (202) 707-0297
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The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress will host a conversation between its outgoing and incoming Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chairs in Astrobiology: David H. Grinspoon and Steven J. Dick. The dialogue is a unique opportunity for public conversation between two of the world’s leading astrobiology researchers.

The discussion, titled “Searching for Life in the Universe: What Does it Mean for Humanity?” features Dick, the 2014 astrobiology chair at the Kluge Center, and Grinspoon, who held the inaugural astrobiology chair position in 2013. The event at the Library of Congress starts at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28, in room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE, Washington, D.C. The program is free and open to the public; tickets are not needed.

Dick is an a well-known astronomer, author, and historian of science. His research at the Library of Congress investigates the human consequences of searching and potentially discovering life beyond Earth. Dick most recently testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology about astrobiology and the search for bio-signatures in our solar system.

Prior to holding the astrobiology chair at the Kluge Center, he was the chair in aerospace history at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. He served as the chief historian for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 2003 to 2009. Prior to his work at NASA, Dick worked as an astronomer and historian of science at the U. S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

Dick’s publications include “Discovery and Classification in Astronomy: Controversy and Consensus” (2013), “Many Worlds” (2000), “The Biological Universe: The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science” (1999), and “The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology” co-authored with James E. Strick (2005). Minor planet 6544 Stevendick is named in his honor.

Grinspoon held the inaugural astrobiology chair position at the Library of Congress from November 2012 to October 2013. His successful tenure included a day-long symposium on the longevity of human civilization and speaking appearances at the Library, NASA headquarters, NASA God¬dard Research Center, the Philosophical Society of Washington, the Carnegie Institute, the National Academy of Sci¬ences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Grinspoon’s research at the Library of Congress examined the history of the Earth from an astrobiological perspective, and the consequences for life on Earth in the “Anthropocene Era,” the name given by some scientists to the current era in the Earth’s history.

An internationally known planetary scientist, funded by NASA to study the evolution of Earth-like planets elsewhere in the universe, Grinspoon serves as an adviser to NASA on space-exploration strategy. He is involved with many space missions and is a trained suborbital astronaut. He has been published widely in popular magazines, scholarly journals, and blogs.

The astrobiology chair at the Kluge Center, established in the fall of 2011, is the result of collaboration between the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress. The chair is named for Baruch "Barry" Blumberg, the late Kluge Center Scholars Council member, Nobel Laureate, and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Funded by NASA, the chair is executed by the Kluge Center in consultation with the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The chair holder conducts research at the intersection of the science of astrobiology and its humanistic and societal implications. One senior researcher is appointed annually to be in residence at Kluge Center, to make use of the Library’s collections in exploration of these questions, and to oversee related programs that ensure the subject of astrobiology’s role in culture and society receives considered treatment each year in Washington, D.C.

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/.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.


PR 14-006
ISSN 0731-3527