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Baltimore to become president of Caltech

Institute Professor David Baltimore, one of the world's leading scientists and winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize for his work in virology, has been appointed president of the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Baltimore will assume the presidency this autumn, succeeding Dr. Thomas E. Everhart, who has served for the past 10 years.

"David Baltimore is perhaps the most influential living biologist, and surely one of the most accomplished," said Dr. Gordon E. Moore, chair of Caltech's Board of Trustees, in announcing the appointment at a Pasadena news conference at 3:30pm PDT yesterday. "He is our nation's leader in the effort to create an AIDS vaccine, and he was a major player in the creation of a national science policy consensus on recombinant DNA research.

"Dr. Baltimore's wisdom and his proven abilities as an educator, researcher, administrator and public advocate for science and engineering make him an outstanding choice to lead Caltech through this period of change and into the 21st century," Dr. Moore said.

MIT President Charles M. Vest commented, "Although I am deeply disappointed to lose his service and leadership at MIT, David Baltimore is an inspired choice for the Caltech presidency. They have selected a brilliant scientific thinker and leader. There is a strong collegial bond between MIT and Caltech, and we at MIT look forward to working with David in his new role."

"It is a deep and special honor to be asked to serve as President of Caltech," Dr. Baltimore said. "In moving to Caltech, my life will certainly alter, but there is one responsibility that I will continue to pursue with unabated vigor. Six months ago I accepted the chairmanship of the AIDS Vaccine Research Committee of the National Institutes of Health. That was a long-term commitment, and the committee has only just started to reshape the vaccine research program.

"The trustees of Caltech have recognized the importance of that activity and have agreed with enthusiasm that I should continue to devote myself to this activity.

"The next decade promises to be an exciting one for the sciences: brain science is coming to the fore in biology, astronomy has powerful new tools, and major questions in physics are being approached with new tools, to name but a few areas of opportunity," Dr. Baltimore said. "Caltech is positioned to play a major role in many of the advances in science and engineering. To lead Caltech during this time is a great privilege, and I look forward to the coming years with excitement."


Dr. Baltimore will continue a tradition of MIT's involvement in Caltech which began before Caltech's founding in 1920. Astronomer George Ellery Hale, MIT Class of 1890, became a trustee in 1907 and began to reshape what was then Throop University, a Pasadena school of arts and crafts, into a scientific institute. In 1913, he persuaded chemist Arthur Amos Noyes Class of 1886 and acting president of MIT from 1907-09, to establish a chemistry department, which Noyes headed until 1936. Hale, Noyes and and Robert Millikan, University of Chicago physicist and the first head of Caltech, developed the scientific focus of that Institute. Other MIT names associated with Caltech include Lee DuBridge, who left the MIT Radiation Laboratory in 1946 to become president of Caltech for the next 22 years; and physicist Richard P. Feynman (SB '39), who won the Nobel Prize.

Caltech has approximately 900 undergraduates and 1,100 graduate students. The Institute has several major off-campus facilities, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the twin telescopes of the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is managed jointly by MIT and Caltech and is currently being built in Hanford, WA, and Livingston, LA.

Dr. Baltimore, 59, was born in New York, NY, and earned his doctorate at Rockefeller University. He did postdoctoral work at MIT and later worked as a research associate at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, from 1965-68.

He has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1968, with the exception of his four years of service at Rockefeller University from 1990 to 1994. He became a full professor in 1972 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1975 at the age of 37. He was founding director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, which he served from 1982-90. Dr. Baltimore was a professor at Rockefeller University from 1990-94 and president of the university in 1990 and 1991. Since 1994, he has been the Ivan R. Cottrell Professor of Molecular Biology and Immunology and the American Cancer Society Research Professor at MIT. He was named Institute Professor in 1995.

He is married to Dr. Alice Huang, dean for science at New York University and also an eminent biologist. The Baltimores have a daughter, Lauren, who recently graduated from Yale and now works in New
York City.

Dr. Baltimore played a pivotal role with Paul Berg, Maxine Singer and several other eminent biologists in the mid-1970s in creating a consensus on national science policy regarding recombinant DNA research. This nationwide effort helped allay reservations about genetics research, and also established research standards that are followed by the genetics community to this day.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 14, 1997.

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