Dr. Neal F. Lane


Introducing Dr. Richard Zare's Lecture
Life On Mars

August 8, 1996

I am Neal Lane, Director of the National Science Foundation. I want to welcome you to NSF today and to introduce Dr. Richard Zare, Chairman of the National Science Board. Dr. Zare has agreed to give a lecture on the subject, "Life on Mars," in light of yesterday's announcement of scientific data that may point to the ancient existence of very rudimentary organic life on Mars. Of course NSF is very pleased that the Martian meteorite under study came from an NSF sponsored expedition to the Antarctic.

Dr. Zare, currently a professor at Stanford University, is a graduate of Harvard University where he received his B.A. degree in chemistry and physics and his Ph.D. in chemical physics. He has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Colorado, where I first met Dick, and Columbia University.

Professor Zare is renowned for his research in the area of laser chemistry. His work has resulted in a greater understanding of chemical reactions at the molecular level. And, what is dear to the heart of a physicist, is that he believes even small--simple--molecules are interesting. Yesterday, he appeared as part of the internationally televised scientific panel and press conference on the new Mars evidence and in that work, Dick looked at rather large molecules.

Before Dr. Zare takes the podium, let me just remind all of us what Dick and his colleagues have made very clear, that this recent discovery, like most scientific findings, is not ultimate proof but rather an important clue; it is a road sign on a long and difficult route.

We are grateful for the dedication of all scientists in the persistent pursuit of new knowledge. On most days, the discovery process is filled with dead ends and closed doors. But through dogged search and questioning, science sometimes pushes open the most astonishing places.

Perhaps it is also wise to remember that science is not about boundaries. Rather it is about the universality and sharing of knowledge for the common good. Without NSF's Research Station in the Antarctic, there would not have been scientists searching that frozen landscape. The meteorite from Mars about which we are all so excited could have remained undiscovered. And so science is also about opportunities to explore. The support of a generous public and its government make possible the circumstances to search and discover.

Let us now welcome Dr. Richard Zare.