In recognition of their world-renowned work and their dedication and service to the MIT community, Professors David Baltimore, John H. Harbison and Daniel I.C. Wang have been named Institute Professor, a title that MIT reserves for about 12 scholars of special distinction. The honor is initiated by the faculty and bestowed jointly by the administration and faculty.
"These people are all world leaders in their fields," said Professor Robert Jaffe, chair of the faculty. "They are absolutely extraordinary in terms of being role models, in the creativity and depth of their scholarship and teaching and in their commitment to the Institute and to academia in general." Professor Jaffe, after reviewing the faculty nominations with the president, provost and the dean of the appropriate school, appointed three panels of colleagues in various fields from MIT and other institutions. These colleagues sought the opinions of peers in their fields and evaluated the recommendations for Institute Professor. The cases were then reviewed by the Academic Council and approved by the Executive Committee of the Corporation.
In addition to the prestige associated with the title, an Institute Professor has a distinctive measure of freedom to define the scope and nature of his or her responsibilities. Reporting directly to the provost rather than to a department head or School dean, the Institute Professor does not have regular departmental or School responsibilities. President Charles M. Vest said "The extraordinary accomplishments of Professors Baltimore, Harbison and Wang make us all very proud to be their colleagues. Each has advanced fundamental knowledge and understanding, yet also contributed directly and demonstrably to improving the quality of human life. Their contributions to science, music and engineering epitomize MIT's value to society as a great research university. Each has profoundly affected his field of endeavor through the students he has educated as well as through his own research and creative activities."
"David Baltimore has been a leader in nearly every facet of modern biology," said Dr. Jaffe, summarizing the assessments of Dr. Baltimore's peers. "He has done significant research on DNA replication, the biochemical mechanisms of oncogene action, and the molecular mechanisms that regulate immune response. "The discovery of reverse transcriptase enzyme, for which Baltimore-at the age of 37-and Howard Temin received the Nobel Prize in 1975, helped form the basis for modern genetic engineering. Dr. Baltimore's work includes more than 500 scientific papers and articles. In his laboratory, he has trained hundreds of students and colleagues who have become leaders in biological science. "He was a strong force behind the development of the MIT Center for Cancer Research founded by the late Professor Salvador Luria. He was the driving force, with philanthropist Jack Whitehead, in creating and leading the Whitehead Institute, affiliating it with MIT and greatly strengthening the Department of Biology, making it a premier center for the training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
"As a public participant on scientific issues, he was a leading voice urging a temporary moratorium on recombinant DNA research in the 1970s until the possible hazards were addressed. His work as co-chair in 1986 of the Committee on a National Strategy for AIDS, in assessing the risks and needs to meet the AIDS disaster, is an example of his deep societal concerns and commitment."
One colleague said Baltimore is the premier biomedical scientist of his time and has had a lasting impact on virtually every realm of modern biology. He has been a teacher of great impact in the classroom who has been unswerving in his conviction that other scientists also should aspire to teach, the colleague said. Dr. Baltimore has been on the MIT faculty since 1968 except for 1990 to 1994, when he served as president and then professor at Rockefeller University. He was director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research from 1982 to 1990.
Professor Jaffe said one reviewer commented that it is not an exaggeration to say that one could write a pretty decent history of the last 25 years in biology by reviewing Dr. Baltimore's contributions. JOHN HARBISON
John Harbison has managed "the almost impossible task of combining sophistication and accessibility in his music. He has written music at once profound and witty, embracing folk themes, formal structures and deep social concern," Professor Jaffe said, summarizing the faculty recommendations. "He is one of this country's most celebrated composers" and "one of the indispensable voices of our time," said one colleague.
In 1987, Professor Harbison was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his oratorio, Flight Into Egypt, which used the story of the Nativity to explore the situation of the poor and homeless in contemporary society. A colleague noted that the composer contributed all the fees for that piece to a Boston shelter for the homeless. In 1989, Professor Harbison received a $305,000 fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
"He has written for every type of concert performance, from the grandest to the most intimate, pieces that embrace jazz along with the pre-classical forms of Schutz and Bach, the graceful tonality of Prokofiev along with the rigorous atonal methods of the Stravinsky," said last year's citation that accompanied the James R. Killian Faculty Achievement Award, also bestowed by faculty colleagues.
A member of the MIT faculty since 1969, a full professor since 1979 and Class of 1949 Professor in the Music and Theater Arts Section of the Department of Humanities since 1984, he has been instrumental in bringing the best young faculty to the Music Section and the most distinguished senior composers and performers to MIT as guest artists. He has been deeply involved in the admissions process and has been "the Music Section's guiding light and intellect as it has grown in national stature until now it is recognized as one of the leading non-conservatory music departments in America," a colleague said.
Professor Harbison has taught in all three branches of the music curriculum-history, composition and performance-and currently teaches two fall and spring courses, Writing in Tonal Forms and Chamber Music. He has twice been chair of the section, and in collaboration with Professor Marcus Thompson, he has developed a chamber music program which now includes 25 ensembles. "On any given night, from 6pm to midnight, it is not unusual to find John moving from one chamber ensemble rehearsal to another through the corridors of Building 4," a colleague said.
"John's leadership within the Boston music community has been extraordinary," said Professor Jaffe, citing his work over the years with chamber music groups, as music director of Cantata Singers, Collage, and as principal guest conductor of Emmanuel Music at Emmanuel Church.
As the commencement speaker at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1994, Professor Harbison said:
"The finding of the sublime in the daily routine is one of the highest purposes of art and cannot be abandoned by your generation. Don't be surprised if this quest for a lofty absorption of popular elements into new musical shapes leads toward a restoration of the sacred function of your musical art. So many of the finest musical achievements of the past have occurred when we have tried to speak with or describe some form of God. Music was created to bring people together in ritual spaces to make sounds that describe their urge for transcendence. We can't wait for the churches to lead us back into this function. We musicians must take that lead, for when music takes on the next world, it gains freedom from fashion, routine and self-consciousness."
"Danny Wang has been the driving force in biochemical engineering at MIT and throughout the world," said Professor Jaffe. "Many of his students have been the leaders in this field, which, as his colleagues noted, has been one of the underpinnings of the nation's biotechnology industry." One group that nominated Professor Wang said he established the Institute's leadership in biochemical engineering through his research and teaching, and through the inception, organization and continuing intellectual leadership of the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center (BPEC). BPEC was founded in 1985 as a multidisciplinary research center focused on problems in biochemical engineering that has brought together faculty from the Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. On the international scale, Dr. Wang has been a pioneer in his efforts to establish the generic value of chemical engineering principles in the analysis and understanding of microbial and, in general, biologically based systems.
Dr. Wang's nomination was supported by many of the most important people in his field both at MIT and outside the Institute, according to Professor Jaffe. Dr. Jaffe said one group summarized his contributions this way: "Dan Wang's research contributions span an extremely broad range of biochemical engineering applications. These include fermentation, monitoring and control of bioprocesses, renewable resource utilization, enzyme technology, product recovery and purification, protein aggregation and refolding, and mammalian cell cultures. He has supervised approximately 50 doctoral students who are now leaders in industry positions. and academia. In addition, Dan has greatly contributed to the nation in terms of service to engineering and biotechnology. For example, he has been the chair of the Membership Committee of the National Academy of Engineering, a member of the National Biotechnology Policy Board at the National Institute of Health, a member of the National Research Council Committee on Bioprocess Engineering, a member of the National Research Council Committee on Biotechnology, and a member of the Board of Biology of the National Research Council."
Dr. Wang's contributions to MIT through leadership and training have been remarkable, Professor Jaffe noted. In particular, the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center established and directed by Professor Wang, and now entering its 11th year, has trained hundreds of scientists-among them scientists at nearly every top academic institution in the country, as well as many leading biotechnology companies-and has been a magnet for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) at MIT. Some 700 students have participated in this program to date. His summer course on Fermentation Technology is the longest-running (30 years) and most successful course at MIT, having educated more than 2,000 people from industry.
Commented one colleague: "It is hard to say whether Danny has contributed more to the profession of biochemical engineering or to MIT, as the two are totally intertwined."
Dr. Wang, who joined the MIT faculty in 1965, received the SB (1959) and SM (1961) from MIT, and the PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963. Currently the Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering, he has received numerous honors and awards and is a member both of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has co-authored five books and more than 100 papers in professional journals.
Currently, there are 10 Institute Professors including Robert M. Solow, Nobel laureate in economics, who is retiring at the end of June. Besides Professor Solow, the current Institute Professors and their fields are Noam A. Chomsky, linguistics; John M. Deutch, chemistry (on leave and currently serving the nation as director of Central Intelligence); Mildred S. Dresselhaus, electrical engineering and physics; Jerome I. Friedman, Nobel Laureate in physics; Morris Halle, linguistics; Hermann A. Haus, electrical engineering and computer science; John D.C. Little, management; Isadore M. Singer, mathematics, and John S. Waugh, chemistry.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 7, 1995.