The Magician – Elizabeth Blackburn

Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians…

Hermes in Greek (or Mercury in Roman) mythology, the messenger god on Mount Olympus, had a magic wand called a Caduceus, which was given to him by Apollo. The Caduceus symbolizes the spinal column, the central conduit for the Psychic Force, or nerve energy, which animates all the organs and members of the body. Hermes/Mercury is associated with the Magician card in the Tarot. 

The traditional Magician card depicts a man who is standing in front of his powerful altar with tools that represent all four directions and the four suits in the tarot. The appearance of the Magician points to the talents, capabilities and resources that are at our disposal if we wish to apply them and succeed. The simple truth is that magical powers do not emanate from us directly. They appear through our creativity and the instruments we choose to apply. Given the instruments at their disposal, science makes scientists into magicians. They have not need for an enchanted staff to aid their performance. They have a vast array of technology at their disposal.

Magic is just science that we don’t understand yet – Arthur C Clarke

Elizabeth Blackburn is a Nobel Prize winning scientist who might well be perceived to be a Magician. Blackburn was born in Hobart on the island of Tasmania, Australia on November 26, 1948. Both of her parents were doctors. From them she imbibed a sense of the importance of serving people kindly and as well as one can.

Blackburn took an early interest in animals and nature and went on to study biochemistry at the university in Melbourne. She later received her PhD from Cambridge University, England.

Blackburn partnered with Jack Szostak, Ph. D., to understand telomere function. They discovered that telomeres have a particular DNA and proved that this DNA prevents chromosomes from being broken down. In 1984, Blackburn and Carol Greider discovered telomerase, which produces the DNA specific to telomeres.

It can be argued that without a mystical outlook, much of science would not exist.

Some of Professor Blackburn’s prestigious awards honours and recognition’s include

  • Australian Society for Microbiology Prize (1967)
  • University of Melbourne Wyselaskie Scholar (1970)
  • Australia Prize (1998)An international prize for scientific research (in 2000 it was replaced by the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science )
  • The Gairdner Foundation International Award(1998) is given annually to three to six people for outstanding discoveries or contributions to medical science
  • Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (2000) The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the betterment of all humanity.
  • AACR-Pezcoller Foundation International Award for Cancer Research (2001)
  • Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2006) This is one of the prizes for the understanding, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and cure of disease.
  • Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (2007)
  • L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (2008) The L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science aims to improve the position of women in science by recognizing outstanding women researchers who have contributed to scientific progress. Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (2009)
  • The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life, science and medicine.
  • Companion of the Order of Australia (Australia Day Honours, 2010), for eminent service to science as a leader in the field of biomedical research, particularly through the discovery of telomerase and its role in the development of cancer and ageing of cells and through contributions as an international adviser in Bioethics.
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales (2010)
  • In 2007, Dr Blackburn was listed among Time Magazine’s TIME 100—The People Who Shape Our World.

Professor Blackburn has been a strong supporter and advocate for women combining the pleasures of family life and the passion for a career in science.