APL Colloquium

October 21, 2005

Colloquium Topic: Scientific Exuberance

What is exuberance and how does it fuel our most important creative and scientific achievements? John Muir's lifelong passion to save America's wild places, Wilson Bentley's legendary obsession to record for posterity the beauty of individual snowflakes, the boundless scientific curiosity behind Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA, sea lions that surf and porcupines that dance-these are examples both human and animal that define the nature of exuberance, and how this exuberance relates to intellectual searching, risk-taking, creativity, and survival itself. Further aspects of the subject include the hereditary predisposition to exuberance; the role of the brain chemical dopamine; the connection between positive moods and psychological resilience; and the differences between exuberance and mania. Some aspects of exuberance are positive-the contagiousness of laughter, the giddiness of new love, the intoxicating effects of music and of religious ecstasy-while some aspects are negative-the dangerous desire to simulate exuberance by using drugs or alcohol. The lecture will include an intimate coda; Dr. Jamison will relate her experience with renowned scientists (including two APL astrophysicists) who have shared their thoughts with her on the forms and role of exuberance in their own lives.

Colloquium Speaker: Kay Jamison

Dr. Kay Jamison is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as well as Honorary Professor of English at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She received a B.A., M.A., C. Phil., and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. She taught at UCLA's School of Medicine (1974-1987) and has been affiliated with Johns Hopkins since 1987. Dr. Jamison, the recipient of numerous national and international scientific awards, was distinguished lecturer at Harvard University in 2002 and the Litchfield lecturer at the University of Oxford in 2003. She is a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow. She is the author of the national best sellers An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, and Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. Her latest book is Exuberance: The Passion for Life. In addition, she is coauthor of the standard medical text on manic-depressive illness and author or coauthor of more than one hundred scientific papers about mood disorders, creativity, and psychopharmacology.