Pope Benedict XVI has appointed two prominent scientists to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Edward M. De Robertis, a chemical biology professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Collins was a leader in the Human Genome Project and directed the NIH’s National Human Genmore Research Institute from 1993 to 2008, according to his NIH biography. He has also written about the relation between science and faith in the 2006 bestseller “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.”
He has been an evangelical Christian since the age of 27. However, he is a supporter of human embryonic stem cell research who believes “therapeutic” human cloning could be acceptable, Discover Magazine reports.
Edward M. De Robertis is an expert in the molecular machinery that governs the formation of the embryo. According to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, his research is used in gene reprogramming experiments in human stem cells. He was also president of the International Society of Developmental Biologists from 2002 to 2006.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences traces its roots back to 1603, when it was founded by Federico Cesi as the first exclusively scientific academy in the world. New academics are elected by the current members and then nominated by the Pope.
The academy's activities range from a traditional interest in pure research to a concern with the ethical and environmental responsibility of the scientific community, the Vatican's website says.