Adam Bly is the founder and editor-in-chief of Seed Magazine and the Chairman/CEO of Seed Media Group. Seed is a bi-monthly science magazine based out of New York and is distributed internationally. The magazine looks at issues located at the intersection of science and society. In 2007, Seed was nominated for two National Magazine Awards.
At 16, Bly was the youngest researcher at the National Research Council of Cancer, where he spent three years studying cell adhesion and cancer. Bly has received many international prizes, including being selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007, and has also received the Jubilee Medal. Bly lives in New York City.
Question: Who are you?
Adam Bly: Adam Bly. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Seed. I’m originally from Montreal. I grew up in Canada and spent the first 20-some good years of my life in Canada. And I think both Canada and Montreal specifically provide sort of an interesting perspective. Canadians famously have a kind of love-hate relationship with the United States, and have this kind of neutral, Swiss-like place on the world stage. And so from both perspectives . . . And maybe thirdly because of the emphasis Montreal places on . . . and Quebec places on sort of multilingualism, multiculturalism, I kind of have greater emphasis on social nets and kind of social values – Canada’s universal healthcare system and the prime minister, who I guess I’m most associated with, was Chretien growing up. And so in the last few years of Chretien premiership he . . . leadership, he very much kind of stood up for some sort of distinctly Canadian values that didn’t seem to be entirely American or entirely aligned with the United States and their values. So you know Canada’s identity has always been a subject of kind of fierce debate within Canada – whether there is one or not. Montreal certainly has one, and I think that I sort of naturally gravitate towards the kinds of ideas, aesthetics, qualities that Montreal and Canada espouse. It definitely affects how I look at aesthetics, how I look at the kinds of cities I gravitate to, and the place of cities, and also sort of social issues. You have a unique vantage point looking at the U.S. from a Canadian perspective. We have this, you know, mix of a little bit of aspiring to be like the United States; on the other hand desiring strongly to not be anything like it. And so you get a unique, I think, window through which to view U.S. politics and U.S. issues.
Probably most significantly was a neighbor of mine who I first came to know when I was probably three or four years old. His name was Dr. Cato – Dr. Laslo Cato. And he was a microbiologist. He was a scientist who worked for many, many years . . . I first got to know him when he was in his seventies, so he spent most of his adult life working on leprosy, and working with the WHO and other bodies around the world on global health issues. And I think the things . . . And so I guess I first encountered science with him in our shared backyard. And I would see him planting beets, beans, or bringing this tree that only grew in certain parts of the world for the first time to Canada and train it – naturalize it to the conditions in our . . . you know in our backyard in Montreal. The thing that was significant though was his . . . his emphasis in his own life and in his wife’s life who was a concert pianist. And they had to come to Canada from Europe . . . from Eastern Europe years earlier. The kind of emphasis that they placed on other things in life . . . They were both passionate about science, but she was a concert pianist. He loved classical music. He gardened. She painted. They had beautiful collection of antiques; was as interested in sort of the history of science and the philosophy of science as the practice of science; sort of a technological dimension of science; spoke about world issues in the context of the science. And so my first encounter with a scientist was, in fact, with this truly renaissance-like man who saw science more as a lens through which to view culture as opposed to purely an academic subject matter.
Recorded on: 10/17/07