Another Formidable Woman – Barbara McClintock 1902 – 1992

Barbara McClintock, 1902-1992

Today, I would like to recognize another formidable woman, Barbara McClintock, American scientist and cytogeneticist (June 16, 1902 – September 2, 1992). Let us give some thought to her accomplishments, for which she was rewarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983. She said in her acceptance speech: “The [Nobel] Prize is such an extraordinary honor. It might seem unfair, however, to reward a person for having so much pleasure over the years, asking the maize plant to solve specific problems and then watching its responses.” McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927, then proceeded to dedicate her life to the study of maize cytogenetics, becoming a leader in the establishment of that field. She produced the first genetic map for maize and developed the technique for visualizing maize chromosomes. She used microscopic analysis to demonstrate many fundamental genetic ideas, one of which was the mechanism by which chromosomes exchange information, linking regions of the chromosome to physical traits, fundamental in all living organism.

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Barbara was recognized as being one of the best in the field, and was awarded prestigious fellowships as a result of her work. In 1944, she was elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Despite her accomplishments, however, she was faced with opposition when she demonstrated that genes are responsible for turning physical characteristics on and off. McClintock’s research did not become well understood until the 1960s and more so in the 1970s, as other scientists confirmed the mechanisms of genetic change and genetic regulation that she had originally validated in her maize research.

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I applaud this woman’s genius for breaking through the glass ceiling erected by the male bastions of scientific research. She deserves to have a monument raised in her name for her perseverance, her wisdom, and for her courage to tell the world that the mechanism of genetic regulation and genetic change found in a plant applies to all living beings, including in the human species.

Kudos to you, Barbara McClintock, wherever you are among your angels!

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My First Award, A Real Neat Blog Award

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I received an award from Dear Kitty. Some Blog. Thank you so very much. Dear Kitty. Some Blog is an excellent blog that I enjoy reading.

The ‘rules’ of the Real Neat Blog Award are:

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Now to answers the questions: These will be the same questions I pose to my nominees.

1. Where do most visits to your blog come from?
Ans: I seem to have a very interesting cross-section of visitors. As my blog is across between; family and historical stories, political commentary and women’s rights and issues. I am happy to meet all of them.

2. What is your favourite sport?
Ans: Golf. I enjoy the masochistic feelings of every bad shot, knowing that I will never get better. Yet today I sank an impossible putt, reminiscent of Tiger Woods on the 17th at Sawgrass while the announcer bellows, “Better than most!” Which confirms that I shall be back to play another day.

3. What has been a special moment for you in 2015 so far?
Ans: It was not a good moment, so I won’t elaborate.

4. What is your favourite quote?
Ans: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!”
— Carl Sagan, Astronomer

5. What was your favourite class when still at school?
Ans: Painting & Graphic arts, so how I ended up doing a PhD in Philosophy I have no idea.

6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier?
Ans: The ability to write fiction.

7. What musical instrument have you tried to play?
Ans: None. For some reason, I was never interested.

Now for my nominees: (if you don’t accept awards, do not feel obliged to act on this)

Cats At The Bar
Back Home in Bromont
Blog of a Mad Black Woman
Meandering of Misha
In My Not So Humble Opinion
Weggieboy’s Blog
Hello World
Misunderstood
A Girl Named Wanda
There are so many more blogs that I enjoy, for those not on the list, know that you are just as worthy as the ones listed.

The Ordination of Women

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Celine aux roses 1912

When I immigrated to this country from Austria in 1953 with my wife and baby boy, we first settled in Montreal, a pleasant city with a predominantly Roman Catholic population. I was very busy working my way from the bottom up, but I had time to observe the medieval powers of the Catholic Church, the sway it had over its people, with each parish’s priest dictating the lives of his citizens as a shepherd over his flock of sheep.

Decades later, the Quiet Revolution ushered in a gradual secularization of the people of Quebec. The separatist movement ushered in a Francisation program, resulting in an exodus of Anglophones. The Anglican Church was not immune to the effects of these movements, and to this day constantly faces the threat of closures, finding it difficult to entice Francophones to join what has traditionally been considered an all-Anglo church. But now, perhaps, the latest event in that church’s history will provide the attraction that has been lacking in Montreal, as it has demonstrated yet further support for gender equality, another milestone in Canadian history.

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Mary Irwin-Gibson

Mary Irwin-Gibson was elected the first female bishop of the Anglican diocese of Montreal on June 6th. Irwin-Gibson was ordained as a deacon in 1981, then as a priest in 1982. She served in Montreal between 1981 and 2009 before moving to Kingston, Ontario to serve as Dean and Rector of St. George’s Cathedral. She joins several women who have been selected to lead the Anglican Church of Canada in recent years. The ordination of women into the Anglican priesthood began in 1976, and since that time, the appearance of women in top positions in that church has become increasingly common. The Anglicans elected their first woman bishop in the U.S. in 1989, and the first woman bishop in Africa in 2012.

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But, are women clergy making a difference? I believe so. And, I believe their time of relevance in human affairs is yet to come in a new Reformation! Even Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, who for now opposes the ordination of women into the priesthood, has succumbed to the strengthening role of women by encouraging their participation in “important decisions … where the authority of the church is exercised”. There is hope for gender equality even in that male bastion.

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The Vatican

A Thought For You America

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The day before the USA independence day, Wordsmith’s Website printed the statement of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President (1743-1826):

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“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deemed them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

Last months the United States has made monumental strides in civilizing humanity, rectifying laws and symbols  of their barbarous ancestors!

 

Brass Scales of Justice on a desk showing Depth-of-field books behind in the background

            The confederate flag, a symbol of barbarous ancestors, has to come down, be displayed in museums, as reminders of the history of slavery, but also of the valiant and bloody war to defend a shameful exploitation of human beings who deserve equal rights and remembrance of the creation of a prosperous and mighty country and its people.

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The equal right and permission to marry into same sex unions, because, by the nature of things they had been born with a disposition not to participate in the act of recreation, but have the equal right to live, love, and function like heterosexual bonding. To deny homosexuals the rights and happiness of heterosexuals is a regimen of barbarous ancestors.

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The equal rights and social integration of people of different colours in society with dignity and love is still being denied by an obsolete white supremacy tradition, a regimen of a barbarous ancestors.

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The religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church and the Islamic Religion, which denies women equal status in the celebration of their religion, has to be reformed to give women equal rights in the celebration and worship of their faith, which is denied them by the tradition of barbaric ancestors.

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Let the Americans of the USA celebrate their Independence Day in the shadow of threats from Isis and other jihadists. Let them become the Nation that leads us into a new reformation of humanity, whereby they are the first to embrace fully their advancement of humanity to bring peace and harmony to the world – moving forward beyond the tradition of barbaric ancestors still lingering in some minds – at home and certainly abroad.

Let the recent events and sacrifices be the inspiration to move forward! Happy 4th of July.

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Musings Inspired by my Journey to Vienna Part 4

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The most vivid memories that my trip to Vienna stirred were, of course, of my last days there, after I got married in the Fall of 1949. I had been anxious to be married before my final exams because I did not believe that I could pass them all unless my sweetheart was with me, and we wanted to have our marriage confirmed in a Catholic church in Vienna because my Protestant family had been opposed to my sudden engagement. We were more amicably received by our Viennese relatives. Geraldine and I were married in St. Mary’s Church in December. And, my aunt Liesl made the arrangements for a proper reception, at which we were to have a surprise guest, someone I had never before met. Aunt Liesl had gone to some trouble to find his address and send him a written invitation.

St. Mary's church, Vienna, The statue of Joseph Hayden in the foreground

St. Mary’s church, Vienna, The statue of Joseph Hayden in the foreground

My mother’s youngest brother, Teddy Jauner, had been one of the opposing party in the estate battle after Grandma Jauner’s death in 1923. My father had been furious over my uncle’s role in the affair, and we were forbidden from mentioning his name in our household. After almost three decades, my mother was longing to let bygones be bygones, but she did not dare suggest this to our father. When I went to Vienna to study, she took me aside in confidence and asked if I would try to find out how Teddy is doing and, if possible, arrange to meet him to pass on his sister’s greetings, to tell him that she wishes him well.

Geraldine and I did not meet Uncle Teddy until we were assembled in the sacristy of the church to sign our marriage papers. He had slipped into the church unnoticed to witness the wedding ceremony, then snuck into the sacristy to meet us and to kiss the bride. He wished us well and told me that finally, after 25 years, he had called my mother in Salzburg and had a pleasant talk with her. Before my aunt Liesl could invite him to the dinner party that she had arranged for all the wedding guests, however, he had vanished.

I am happy to say that we did have the opportunity to meet him again, though. He invited us to have lunch with him in his small apartment, where we could have a heart-to-heat talk. We learned about his life and his work. He had written a self-published biography of Franz Ritter von Jauner, the famous theatre director and his own uncle, and was now living life in general isolation. He also described the tragic misunderstandings that had occurred upon the death of my grandmother.

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Franz Ritter von Jauner

Times were very hard after World War I. The depression and mounting inflation gave rise to a sect of greedy, artful lawyers and government agents who preyed on the ignorance of the relatives of those who had been lost, robbing them of their inheritance. A few years earlier, Uncle Teddy had received a pittance from the estate, then a letter from the two sisters of his lawyer who had passed away. The sisters were packing up their brother’s office and had found a heavy box marked ‘Jauner’. When Uncle Teddy brought the box home and opened it, he found it was packed with stock certificates that had been issued to his mother. The companies in question had flourished during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, but now their stock was, as he said, “worth as much as wallpaper”.

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Geraldine and I met with Uncle Teddy a few more times and I was able to put him in touch with my brother, Benvenuto, when he moved to Vienna as well. At least he then had something of a semblance to family. Unfortunately, he and my mother never had the opportunity to meet, ever again, in person.

Yes, Vienna is still very much on my mind and will continue to be as I complete the English translation of Uncle Teddy’s manuscript, Franz Ritter von Jauner: The King of the Operetta. I am very happy that I had the chance to become reconnected with my brother’s children in the most pleasant way. I hope that, one day, they will come to visit me in Canada.

And now 60 years later, the Eastern Townships, where I live, does not seem so different.

The Eastern Townships of Quebec, where I have now lived for 60 years, does not seem so different from home.

Photo source, google images