Mecham Presents 2010 Faculty Distinguished Lecture

Meredith College Professor of Biological Sciences John Mecham presented the 2010 Faculty Distinguished Lecture on January 26.

The lecture, “The Waikiki Delicatessen: the Beginnings of Big Ideas,” opened with musical selections by the Meredith Chorale, and a slide show of the many locations in Africa to which Mecham has traveled.

Using the Great Rift Valley of Kenya, where Louis and Mary Leakey “discovered a fossil specimen that was to change forever how we view and understand human evolution - a 3.9 million year old skull of what was later named Australopithecus afarensis” as an example, Mecham illustrated that in many cases, there are no monuments to note great scientific discoveries.

His lecture title refers to another location of a major scientific discovery. A post-conference conversation between two scientists at the Waikiki Delicatessen resulted in the discovery of recombinant DNA.

“Their chat led to a discovery that rocked the world of science,” Mecham said.

Now, the delicatessen has been torn down, and there is no monument or plaque to mark the site.

”What is ultimately important is the science, not the scientist,” Mecham said. “It is the knowledge that changes the world, not the scientist.”

The head of the Department of Biological Sciences, Mecham joined the Meredith faculty in 2000. He holds undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Virginia Tech.

The first Faculty Distinguished Lecture was presented by Norma Rose in December 1964. According to “Faculty Distinguished Lectures 1964-1981,” the lecture series was designed to “represent a significant achievement of research by a faculty member.”

Click here to view the full list of previous faculty distinguished lecture presenters.

Date Submitted: 2010-01-26

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