Message from the President

Richard MeserveAs an institution founded with the mandate to conduct basic scientific research, the Carnegie Institution can often appear removed from the problems that dominate our headlines. Yet the passage of time has illuminated the value of basic research. Many of our scientists’ fundamental discoveries have laid the foundation for solutions to vexing real-world problems, as these examples suggest:

  • RNA interference, a technique to selectively block the expression of specific genes, has become a versatile tool in pursuing a cure for human cancer and other diseases (and won a shared Nobel Prize for Andrew Fire, who completed his RNAi research at Carnegie’s Department of Embryology).
  • The study of plant genetics and physiology has provided the means to enhance the disease resistance of crops and increase yields.
  • The invention of the strainmeter has served to deepen our understanding of earthquakes and volcanoes.
  • The Carnegie Airborne Observatory, a new eye on our planet to understand how our global ecology is changing.

The work of our scientists—whether developing the next-generation telescope, investigating environmental destruction in rainforests, or synthesizing harder and clearer diamonds—is often noteworthy. We are gratified when that work receives the highest acclaim. In the past few years, Carnegie scientists have garnered some of the world’s most prestigious scientific awards: the Lasker, Balzan, Lovelace, and Nobel prizes.

With this in mind, we ask you to consider a charitable gift to the Carnegie Institution this year. Andrew Carnegie was wise to assert, over 100 years ago, that the seeds of basic research would yield knowledge that can vastly improve our quality of life, even in the near term, while enriching the intellectual soil for future discoveries. His generous endowment—extraordinary in its time—supports only a portion of the institution’s important work. Gifts from individuals who share his vision are essential to our continuing success.

Richard A. Meserve