May/June Tip Sheet: Culture & Living

Tip sheets highlight timely news and events at Washington University in St. Louis. For more information on any of the stories below or for assistance in arranging interviews, please see the contact information listed with each story.

Iraqi connection to Louisiana PurchaseU.S. approach to governing Iraqis echoes concepts introduced after America’s first acquisition of a foreign land

Louisiana Purchase: Emergence of an American Nation
Kastor is editor of *The Louisiana Purchase: Emergence of an American Nation*.

The challenges faced by today’s U.S. government officials in Iraq are plentiful. Having ejected the government of Saddam Hussein, U.S. representatives must now spearhead the organization of a new system led by Iraqis to meet the needs of their country’s multi-religious and multi-ethnic population. This effort comes at the bicentennial of America’s first effort to govern foreign peoples. Two hundred years ago — with the end of negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase in Paris on April 30, 1803 — a fledgling U.S. government faced similar circumstances and even greater challenges, according to Peter J. Kastor, Ph.D., assistant professor of history and American Culture Studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Healthy land = healthy bodyEarly pioneers sought ‘healthy’ places to live, 19th-century writings reveal

Valencius unearths a common theme among early settlers in *The Health of the Country*.

Poring over stacks of yellowed aging letters and other documents from the 19th century while researching American western expansion, Conevery Bolton Valencius, Ph.D., an environmental historian at Washington University in St. Louis, noted a common theme. Assessments of the “sickliness” or “health” of land pervade settlers’ letters, journals, newspapers and literature from that time. Valencius says that the numerous references throughout 19th-century writings to “healthy country,” “sickly” countryside, or “salubrious” valleys reveal the importance settlers placed on the connections between their bodies and their land. One of the main criteria for choosing where to farm and where to raise a family for the early settlers was whether or not the area would be a healthy place to live.

‘Genetic interconnections all over the globe’Evolutionary biologist: race in humans a social, not biological, concept

Alan Templeton

The notion of race in humans is completely a social concept without any biological basis, according to a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. There are not enough genetic differences between groups of people to say that there are sub-lineages (races) of humans, said Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. On the other hand, there are different races in many other species, including chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives. Templeton was part of a recent St. Louis panel discussion that previewed the first episode of the National Public Television’s “Race: The Power of an Allusion” series running nationally on May 4, 11, and 18 (check local stations for times).

The quiet poet exposedMemoir, anthology focus new light on American poet John Morris

A page from *Selected Poems* by Morris

American poet John N. Morris never achieved widespread public acclaim in his lifetime, but those who knew him well — including some of the nation’s most distinguished poets and critics — expect his star to rise with publication of two books showcasing both his life and his life’s work. “Read him and you cannot live your own life innocently again,” suggests Helen Vendler, one of the nation’s leading literary critics. Morris, who died in 1997, was a professor of English literature in Arts & Sciences for 30 years at Washington University in St. Louis.

He whirs, he pings, he shootsLewis the robot eyes future in wedding photography

Lewis the photogapher and robot
Lewis the robotic photographer

May and June are prom, graduation and wedding months, times when the family camera gets a steaming workout. Computer scientists at Washington University in St. Louis can take that camera out of your designated photographer’s hands and perch it atop Lewis, a five-foot tall, 300-pound robot that wanders through a space taking pictures of people. Named after Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame (for his traveling ways), Lewis is the creation of William D. Smart, Ph.D., and Cindy M. Grimm, Ph.D., assistant professors of computer science at Washington University, and is considered to be the world’s first robotic photographer.

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