Geneticist urges grads to look after Mother Earth

June 13, 2007

Western graduates were told by one of Canada's leading thinkers and geneticists that some would censor further exploration of genetics.

Charles Scriver

"The DNA is an eternal molecule," said Charles Scriver. "Why not look after it the best we can?"

Scriver spoke to graduates from the faculties of Graduate Studies, Science and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the afternoon session of the third day of Western's 288th Convocation. The University of Western Ontario conferred an honorary Doctor of Science degree upon Scriver in recognition of his work in the Human Genome Project.

Scriver played a critical role in developing scientific and ethical policies associated with the international Human Genome Project - created to decode more than three billion DNA base pairs and identify all the genes.

The author of more than 600 publications has played a critical role in numerous international projects including controlling the children's disease rickets with Vitamin D and genetic screening for diseases that causes mutations. In 1985, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and elevated to Companion in 1996. Scriver was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2001.

In his citation for Scriver, Shiva Singh of the Department of Biology said a generation of patients and their families remain grateful for Scriver's scientific vision.

Noting the influences on his scientific journeys, Scriver recalled the poet Tennyson, saying "I am a part of all that I have met, yet all experience is an arch through which gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades for ever and forever when I move."

Scriver recalled for the graduates the power of seeing the first images of Earth taken from the moon.

"It awakened in me the beauty and fragility of planet Earth," he said. "What is my responsibility for my habitat? What can I know about it? And finally what can I do?

"You and I are caught in the web of the eternal molecule which is why I want to protect Mother Earth."

As part of the afternoon ceremony, awards for faculty were presented. Robert Hegele
(Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry) was honoured as a recipient of the Distinguished University Professor Award and Khoa Nguyen (Applied Mathematics) was presented with The Angela Armitt Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Faculty.

Emeritus Professor honours were bestowed upon John B. Florence (Mathematics), Nicholas Payne (Chemistry) and Roger King (Geography).


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