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Knoll to discuss life on Earth and Mars

Andy Knoll '73, who was named one of America’s best scientists by Time magazine, will return to his alma mater to give two lectures on Monday, March 27.

In an evening address beginning at 7 p.m., Knoll will speak on “Life on a Young Planet: the Deep History of Life on Earth.” Earlier in the day, his 12:10 p.m. talk will focus on the search for life on Mars. Both lectures, which are free and open to the public, will take place in Room 270 of Lewis Laboratory.

Knoll is currently the Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard, a principal investigator of the NASA National Astrobiology Institute team at Harvard, a member of the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers science team, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. in geology from Harvard after studying earth sciences and biology as an undergraduate at Lehigh.

Knoll’s lectures are sponsored by the department of earth and environmental sciences through its D. Foster Hewett endowment. They are a part of a lecture series that a group at Lehigh developed this academic year to help educate the community about the science of biological evolution, says Bruce Hargreaves, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Lehigh. Added support for the final series of lectures on April 17 was provided by the department of biological sciences, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, the College of Education, and the Visiting Lecturers Committee.

“We are pleased to have Dr. Knoll return to Lehigh to give these two lectures,” Hargreaves says. “He is not only a highly successful scientist who received his undergraduate training at Lehigh University, but an excellent communicator—through his scientific publications, media appearances, and his teaching.”

Hargreaves describes Knoll as “an expert on the early phases of biological evolution on Earth” who is also active in the search for life on Mars.

“His recent book clearly describes the unfolding scientific knowledge and the remaining questions about early life, including the interactions between early microbial organisms and their physical environment,” he says. “These interactions had a huge impact on the subsequent evolution of more complex organisms such as animals and plants, providing the oxygen we breath today and the protective ozone layer that blocks damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun.”

Knoll is also a curator of the Paleobotanical Collections in the Botanical Museum at Harvard University. He has received numerous awards for his scientific achievements, including the Paleontological Society Medal, the Charles Schuchert Award, and the Society for Sedimentary Geology Raymond C. Moore Medal. He has served on Earth and space science advisory groups, such as the NRC Space Studies Board and the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources. In 1991, Knoll was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors accorded to scientists.

For more information about Knoll’s talks, please call (610) 758-3660 on the Seminars link on the earth and environmental sciences Web site.

--Liz Danzig

Posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006

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