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Wald, George (1906–1997)




Georde Wald
Harvard biologist who shared the 1967 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with the US physiologists Haldan Hartline (1903–83) and Ragnar Granit (1900–91) for research into the chemical processes of vision. He discovered that vitamin A is an essential component of visual pigments and later determined the chemical reactions that occur in the rods of the retina.

While allowing that life in the Universe was probably common, Wald argued strongly against any attempt to establish contact with an extraterrestrial race. At a 1972 symposium on "Life Beyond Earth and the Mind of Man," sponsored jointly by NASA and Boston University, he said that he could "conceive of no nightmare as terrifying as establishing such communication with a so-called superior (or if you wish, advanced) technology in outer space." His fear was that human enterprise in arts, sciences, and other fields would come to an end once our race became "attached as by an umbilical cord to that 'thing out there.'"


Related entry

   • extraterrestrial intelligence, implications following first contact


Related categories

   • BIOLOGISTS
   • SETI