John Templeton Foundation

“Is that really my brother? . . . He’s not like a human person.” “Don’t say that, Frankie. He’s not well, and he’ll never be any better, but he’s human right enough.” . . . This must be the Looner that Alexander Dagg’s hateful Maw declared that McRorys kept in their attic. A Lonner! He could not encompass the idea. . . . “Shall we sing?” Zadok struck up “Frère Jacques”, which he sang in French, pretty well. But Victoria sang . . . Are you sleeping, Are you sleeping Brother John? Brother John? because she spoke no
French. . . . The Looner was enchanted. . . . Nobody could tell how much the Looner understood of anything, but he responded to rhythm, and his favourite, which ended every concert, was a rollicking song to the beat of which Zadock, and Francis, clapped their hands: Rule Britannia! . . . The Looner brought love back into the life of Zadok, for only love can explain his behaviour toward him. The Looner brought motherhood into the life of Victoria. . . . For Francis, the Looner was a lifelong reminder of the inadmissible primitive in the most cultivated life, a lifelong adjuration to pity, a sign that disorder and abjection stand less than a hair’s breadth away from every human creature. A continual counsel to make the best of whatever fortune had given him. . . . So the Looner did not live in vain.”

Robertson Davies
from What’s Bred in the Bone

 
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Xavier Le Pichon, one of the founders of the modern theory of plate tectonics, is professor and chair of geodynamics at the Collège de France in Aix en Provence. He was the first to develop a global model, based on quantitative analysis, of the motions of segments of the hard outer layer of the earth. His work became the basis for better understanding the distribution of earthquakes and the large-scale reconfiguration of continents and ocean basins, and his 1973 book, Plate Tectonics (with Jean Bonnin and Jean Francheteau), was a standard reference work for decades. But as longstanding is his commitment to the community of caring for the cognitively impaired in the French country town of Trosly-Breuil. Dr. Le Pichon lived there with his own family for twenty-seven years. In 2003, he moved to Sisteron in the south of France to coordinate the work of the Thomas Philippe House, a facility he and his wife created to help people who have psychologically ill family members. Dr. Le Pichon was born a continent away in Viet Nam. He studied physics at the University of Caen and, between 1963 and 1968, conducted research at Columbia University’s Lamont Geological Observatory as an assistant to the oceanographer Maurice Ewing. His research led to his Ph.D. thesis in geophysics, which he defended in 1966 at the University of Strasbourg. He then joined the scientific staff of France’s Centre National pour l’Exploitation des Océans (CNEXO) and, in 1969, was named the head of a major new marine laboratory, the Centre Oceanologique de Bretagne, in Brest. During the next five years, he also served, successively, as a visiting scientist at Lamont, an associate professor at the University of Paris VII, and the first Cecil and Ida Green Fellow at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the University of California at San Diego. Named science advisor to the president of CNEXO in 1973, he led (with James Heirtzler and Robert Ballard) the French-American Mid-Ocean Undersea Study (FAMOUS) that marked the beginning of high resolution investigations of mid-ocean ridges and their hypothermal systems. After becoming a professor at the University of Pierre and Maria Curie in Paris and the director of the Laboratoire de Géodynamics in 1978, he extended this method of exploration to the deep-sea trenches in the eastern Mediterranean and, from 1984, when he was named director of the Laboratorie de Géologie de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure, to the Pacific trenches of the coast off Japan. Dr. LePichon was named to his present professorship in 1986. Five years later, the ISI named him the world’s most highly cited scientist. He has been a visiting professor at Tokyo University’s Ocean Research Institute, Oxford University, and Rice University. In recognition of the leading role he has played in the development of marine geology in France and around the world, he is the recipient of many honors. He is a member of the (French) Académie des Sciences and an associate member of the (American) National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the Geological Society of London, an honorary member of the Brazil Geological Society, and a founding member of the Academia Europaea. Dr. Le Pichon was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 1999 and has been awarded honorary degrees by Dalhousie University in Halifax and the ETH in Zurich. He is the winner of Hirn Prize of the Académie des Sciences, Belgium’s Paul Fourmarier Medal, the Centre National de la Reserche Scientifique’s Silver Medal, the French Oceanography Medal, the Richard Medal of the Société d’Eccouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale, the Foundation de France’s Scientific Prize, the Académie de Marine’s Scientific Prize, the Ewing Medal of the American Geophysical Union, the Huntsman Prize of Canada’s Oceanographic Institute, the Japan Prize, the Wollaston Medal of The Geological Society of London, the Balzan Prize for Geology, and Wegener Medal of the European Geoscience Union. A former member of the editorial boards of Tectonophysics, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and the Journal of Geodynamics, he is presently a member of the editorial board of Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences. He is the author or co-author of more than 280 papers published in scientific journals and of four books, including (with Claude Riffaud) the prize-winning Expédition FAMOUS (1976) and, most recently (with Tang Yi Jie) La Mort, a French and Chinese perspective on the dignity and freedom of human beings facing the mystery of death, which was published by Desclée de Brouwer in 1999.