76 U.S. Nobel Laureates in Science Endorse Obama for President

WASHINGTON, DC, October 29, 2008 (ENS) - In an open letter to the American people released Tuesday, 76 American Nobel Laureates in science have endorsed Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois for president of the United States. This is the largest number of Nobel prize winners ever to endorse a candidate for office.

"This year's presidential election is among the most significant in our nation's history." the Nobel Laureates wrote. "The country urgently needs a visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness."

"We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader, and we urge you to join us in supporting him."

The scientists warned that an administration headed by Obama's opponent Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona would not be good for future U.S. scientific endeavors that over the past eight years "have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support."

"John McCain's promise to freeze funding increases for science next year threatens to continue this dangerous trend," wrote the Nobel Laureates in chemistry, medicine and physics.

"In addition, the reckless statements he and Governor [Sarah] Palin [of Alaska] have made on specific science programs including studies aimed at protecting the grizzly bear population, funding for a planetarium and research on fruit flies that have the potential to decimate crops brings to doubt their ability to manage the nation's science programs," the scientists wrote.

The Nobel Laureates were critical of President George W. Bush. Their letter warns, "The government's scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations," the scientists wrote. "As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk."

"We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy," they wrote.

The Nobel Laureates praised Obama's plan for managing and growing the nation's scientific endeavor. "We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation's competitiveness," the scientists wrote.

"In particular, we support the measures he plans to take - through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research - to meet the nation's and the world's most urgent needs."

The list of 76 scientists includes three of the four American Nobel Laureates in science for 2008 - Martin Chalfie of Columbia University and Roger Tsien of the University of California at San Diego who shared the prize in Chemistry, and Yoichiro Nambu, of the University of Chicago who won the prize in Physics.

Chalfie was the first of the three to make his intentions known. One of the first actions he took after learning he won the prestigious prize was to contact a friend about signing on to the Obama endorsement letter.

"I understand there's a list of Nobel Prize winners supporting Barack Obama, and I want to get my name on the list," Chalfie said.

Chalfie also recorded a YouTube video explaining his endorsement to the public, saying, "The United States is the leader in scientific discovery and its application, but other countries are working hard to take away this lead. Barack Obama's administration will continue to keep us the envy of the world."

{Photo: Dr. Martin Calfie in his chemistry lab at Columbia University (Photo by Angela Radelescu)}

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