I was educated in the United Kingdom and Canada with B.Sc and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry and postdoctoral fellowships at the universities of London and Ottawa. I taught for 50 years at the State University of New York at Buffalo in the broad areas of biomedical sciences and scientific ethics. I served progressively as Professor of Pharmacology, Dean of The School of Pharmacy, Dean of the Graduate School, and University Provost retiring at The SUNY Distinguished University Professor. I have published over three hundred scientific articles and written and edited some two dozen books. I have held visiting professorships at universities in India, Italy, United Kingdom, China, Kuwait and Oman and received honorary from several universities.
I will discuss the origins of eight diverse occurrences that are critical to our current existence on Planet Earth. These will include in order: 1. The Origin of Life: 2. The Origin of Homo Sapiens: 3. The Origin of the New Prometheus or Frankenstein Revisited : 4. The Origin of Pandemics including Covid-19: 5. The Origin of Forensic “Science": 6.The Origin of Zombies: From Count Dracula to Toxoplasma gondii: 7. The Origin of Sex or Why does Sex Exist?: 8. The Origin of Climate Change or Florida Under Water.
I provide a more detailed outline of two of the classes:
1. The Origin of Life. How do we define life? is life merely a set of complex organic reactions? Is life common in our universe with its billions of stars or is life a one-off accident? Is our planet a "Goldilocks" example with conditions uniquely suited for life to have evolved? What can we learn from Mars? How did our genetic code come into existence and is it universal? Can we/should we create life?
7. The Origin of Sex. why does sex exist? Asexual reproduction is, in principle simpler, less energy demanding and does not produce a generation of 50% male "drones". As Lord Chesterfield once wrote, referring to the human condition - "The pleasure is fleeting, the position is ridiculous, and the expense damnable". We will discuss why sex occurs and the genetic advantages that it yields and hopefully inform about the multiple permutations of sex in the human and animal worlds. These will include the influence of temperature on male: female ratios in a number of species, the many situations where sex is dangerous or lethal to the male of the species, thus raising the question of how such events contribute to species survival and propagation. We will also discuss the issue of binary: non-binary sex in humans where our concept of a simple male: female division is simplistic and where, in fact, a continuum rather than a 1:1 division exists.
There are no required readings, but I will provide suggested readings with each class for those interested in more detail.