The great achievements of four Americans who grew up in New York City's borough of Queens have been widely celebrated this month in America and overseas. President Donald Trump, in the home stretch of a fierce race for a second term, was successfully treated for an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and he was discharged after a three-day stay at Walter Reed Medical Center.
Amazingly, on Oct. 2, President Trump was infused with an experimental polyclonal antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the biotechnology company whose co-founders, Dr. George Yancopoulos and Dr. Leonard Schleifer, are, like President Trump, "Baby Boomers" who grew up in Queens.
On Oct. 7, President Trump announced that, if Regeneron's wonder drug receives emergency FDA approval, any American who needs the drug will receive it free.
The next day, Regeneron applied for emergency approval to begin widely distributing the antibody cocktail.
Since March 30, President Trump's brilliant "Operation Warp Speed" has distributed $8.139 billion to drug companies to create a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and for therapeutics, including $450 million to Regeneron in early July for developing the REGN-COV2 cocktail.
On Oct. 5, the 2020 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Dr. Harvey J. Alter, who graduated from Richmond Hill High School in Queens in 1952. Three decades earlier, President Trump's late father, Frederick, graduated from this formerly excellent school.
The 85-year-old Dr. Alter, a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, was awarded the Nobel for identifying and designing a blood test for the virus that causes Hepatitis C.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Alter was also the leading collaborator with the late Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1976 for identifying and creating a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B.
In 1943, Dr. Blumberg graduated from another Queens high school, Far Rockaway, the alma mater of two Nobel laureates in physics: the internationally renowned Richard Feynman and Burton Richter.
Dr. Yancopoulos and Dr. Schleifer are medical doctors with Ph.D.'s in research, and in the late 1980s, they left academia and co-founded Regeneron, the biotechnology company located in Westchester County, N.Y. (just north of the Bronx).
Currently, Regeneron has a NASDAQ capitalization of $60 billion, 8,100 employees, and revenues last year of $7.9 billion.
In 2016, five months before the American people wisely elected Donald Trump, Regeneron made national headlines by succeeding Intel as the corporate sponsor of the Science Talent Search, the prestigious STEM competition for high school seniors, whose original sponsor between 1942 and 1998 was Westinghouse Electric.
Regeneron has committed $10 million annually for a decade to the venerable contest, and Drs. Yancopoulos and Schleifer, as high school seniors, participated in the Westinghouse STS in the 1970s.
Joseph Berger's 1994 book, "The Young Scientists: America's Future and the Winning of the Westinghouse," documents that between 1942 and 1990 the Bronx High School of Science, Dr. Yancopoulos', Berger's and my alma mater, ranked first nationally with 949 semifinalists.
Forest Hills High School in Queens, Dr. Schleifer's alma mater, ranked third with 217 Westinghouse semifinalists. Each year 300 semifinalists are chosen nationwide.
Incredibly, eight other NYC public high schools – Stuyvesant, Jamaica, Erasmus Hall, Benjamin Cardozo, Midwood, Brooklyn Tech, Martin Van Buren and Abraham Lincoln – were Top 12 producers of semi-finalists during the Westinghouse's first half-century.
Jamaica, Cardozo and Van Buren are also located in Queens, while Erasmus, Midwood, Brooklyn Tech and Lincoln are in Brooklyn. Stuyvesant is in Manhattan.
Tragically, during the last decade, due to the egregious incompetence of Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio and their appointed Schools Chancellors, only Bronx Science and Stuyvesant, among the hundreds of high schools operated by the NYC Department of Education, still rank among the nation's top incubators of semifinalists.
However, Manhattan's elite Hunter College High School, which is overseen by Hunter College and City University of New York, has remained an STS powerhouse during the 21st century.
The incredible Westinghouse record of New York City public high schools, between 1938 and 1990, and in earlier local science fairs, directly correlates with their unrivaled accomplishments in the nurturing of a spectacular 43 Nobel prize winners in: Physics, 17; Medicine, 15; Chemistry, 6; and Economics, 5.
(Henry Kissinger, the Nobel laureate in Peace, graduated from George Washington High School in upper Manhattan.)
The NYC leaders in Nobel laureates in the four STEM disciplines are:
- Bronx High School of Science – 8
- James Madison, Brooklyn – 5
- Stuyvesant – 4
- Far Rockaway, Abraham Lincoln and Townsend Harris – 3 each
Resurrected in Queens in 1984 by its remarkable alumni, Townsend Harris High School had been located in Manhattan until 1942, when the great Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, in a fit of educational madness, closed it. One of its most distinguished graduates is Dr. Jonas Salk, the creator of the first polio vaccine in the 1954, who was not, inexplicably, one of the three American scientists who were awarded the Nobel prize that year for their discoveries about polio viruses.
2020 and 2016 can be characterized as the intertwined years of the great Americans from Queens, NYC's underappreciated, wonderfully diverse, middle-class borough of 2.25 million residents.
Mark Schulte is a retired New City schoolteacher and mathematician who has written extensively about science and the history of science. Read Mark Schulte's Report's — More Here.
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