39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
The Science in Our Food
Back to Results
For many years I wrote letters at Thanksgiving time to express gratitude for life’s blessings and to thank those making possible institutions for which I have been especially grateful. Last year was an exception. Although I felt as blessed as always, administrative changes did not allow the time.
This year I am writing again to thank you who make possible the life and progress of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Of course, realizing how dependent we all are on other happenings in our community and the world, I should also be grateful to all of those engaged in making our community a world leader in plant science and the commercial development of its products, and to the scientific progress and advances in computing and automation coming from laboratories around the globe.
I believe we are especially privileged to be working for an organization designed to do good, to help people wherever they may be to live better, more successful and more productive lives, and to protect the environment that will be necessary to nourish our great grandchildren. We are even more privileged to live in an era in which science makes realistic our ambitious hopes and dreams.
I remember a quote from Peter Medewar, a talented biologic scientist I have long admired, a Nobel Laureate (1960) who deepened the understanding of immunity paving the way for transplant surgery, and a wise, perceptive and elegant writer:
I describe myself as a ‘meliorist’—one who believes that the world can be improved by finding out what is wrong with it and then taking steps to put it right.
That is an apt, if oversimplified, way of stating why the Plant Science Center satisfies my desire to be involved with improving the world. Since I imagine that those reading this letter share the same desire, I will spell out my thoughts a bit more.
Science, a method of organizing and disciplining human curiosity, has brought great boons to humankind and I am sure will bring many more. A footnote on Medawar’s aphorism – “taking steps to put it right” must be preceded by learning how “it” works. Such understanding makes fixing easier. The expected boons from such knowledge help explain why government supports fundamental science.
We have been relearning in recent years how complex problems can be and that progress comes most rapidly and safely when people of different skills and temperaments and even life experiences join forces and work together for common cause. The Plant Science Center is such an organization. Our success depends on very talented people, scientists from various aspects of biology, computational specialists, and those with skills operating specialized equipment, and that is only the beginning. Visionary scientific leadership is essential; we need also able people who staff the financial and research offices, who manage the buildings, equipment and greenhouses, who keep the offices running, who keep the public informed and so on. We would not be successful without generous donors, active and imaginative volunteers, and staff who work with them and I would even add understanding and supportive political leaders. All depends on people working together with honesty and good will.
Some get profound aesthetic pleasure from hearing a particularly well played symphony; I get a thrill from experiencing a well-functioning organization, especially one dedicated to making our species live successfully in harmony with the world.
So thanks to each of you for playing a role in making successful our Plant Science Center and for helping bring to reality the hopes and visions that inspired it in the first place. The first decade plus has amazed me. That we are succeeding so well is my reason for special gratitude this Thanksgiving season.
With much appreciation,
William H. Danforth, M.D. Founding Chairman
| william h danforthThanksgivingletterimpactDiscoverycommunity