Shirley Tilghman
Molecular Biologist; Pres., Princeton University

Re: Who are we?

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Tilghman says that there are many forces that have shaped humanity such as evolution, natural selection, technology, the Internet, and our ability to create a more comfortable environment. She feels that free public education has shaped education in the US, and that legislation that may raise tuition could lessen the accessibility for many to have a higher education.

Shirley Tilghman

Shirley Tilghman is the nineteenth president of Princeton University, and is the first woman to hold the position. Tilghman served on the Princeton faculty for fifteen years before being named President. A native of Canada, Tilghman was educated at Queen's University and Temple University. She is a renowned molecular biologist, known particularly for her pioneering research in mammalian developmental genetics. She served as a member of the National Research Council's committee that set the blueprint for the U.S. effort in the Human Genome Project and was one of the founding members of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project Initiative for the National Institutes of Health.

In 2002, Tilghman was one of five winners of the L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science.  In the following year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Developmental Biology, and in 2007, she was awarded the Genetics Society of America Medal for outstanding contributions to her field.  Tilghman is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the Royal Society of London. She chairs the Association of American Universities and serves as a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and as a director of Google Inc.

Question: What forces that have shaped humanity most?

Transcript: I don’t think there is a single force. As a biologist I would have to begin with the force of evolution. Clearly I believe in evolution. I believe in the theory of natural selection. I think it’s had enormous impact on who we are as a species and where we are today. I believe in the power of technology. I think particularly if you look at the history of human endeavor, you could write that history based on the kinds of technological advances, you know, from the Bronze Age on. The first time someone picked up a stick and realized it could be a tool, to what is happening today in . . . with the Internet, for example. I think that has been a tremendous, tremendous force that has affected the way we have developed as a species. I think the other would be the move away from subsistence to creating excess, which is another way of saying the ability to move from living hand-to-mouth to finally creating wealth. And what wealth allowed individuals to do both in terms of creating a greater comfort in the way we live; but I think also in allowing us the leisure time that allows us as humans to create art, for example.