A Planet and Its People

Robert V. Duncan

Dr. Robert Duncan,
Vice Chancellor for Research

ELLIS LIBRARY’S COPY of the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of about 1,200 of these sumptuously illustrated books known to exist, represents a powerful testament to the significance and staying power of the printed page.

At just under 400 pages, the Chronicle seeks to do nothing less than chart the whole of human history from Creation to the date of its publication in 1493. It is a sophisticated but sometimes fantastical account: historic events are conflated with myths and fables; maps and portraits often bear little resemblance to the places and people they purport to represent; digressions into science and medicine can seem, by today’s standards, hopelessly naïve.

But like many of the early books featured in this month’s cover feature, the Nuremburg Chronicle was always much more than just a compendium of creative nonfiction. Because it was printed using movable type, the artisans who produced it could crank out hundreds, if not thousands, of relatively affordable copies. Suddenly, educated people of all ranks had far greater access to the previously inaccessible realm of learning by reading.

Today, of course, it is the digital dissemination of knowledge that is challenging the educational status quo, just as technological advancements in other areas are helping contemporary scholars and scientists pursue their own world-changing breakthroughs.

In this edition of Illumination, for example, you’ll learn about the nature of networks, digital and otherwise, and how new thinking can help us bend our minds around the vast array of relationships that they represent. You’ll meet an MU biologist who has spent the past 35 years unraveling the fascinatingly complex relationship between flowering plants and pollinators. You’ll also discover how a prominent MU health researcher is changing the way epidemiologists prioritize disease prevention efforts; how a molecular scientist is digging deep into the structure of cells to reveal how ribosomes sometimes unwittingly help viruses reproduce; and how a promising bioremediation technology could help reclaim toxic hotspots left over from munitions manufacturing.

I like to think that the Chronicles’ scholarly author, Hartmann Schedel, would be filled with pride and wonder at the progress we’ve made since his history ended. I hope that you’ll feel equally impressed by the work chronicled on these printed pages.

Robert V. Duncan

Vice Chancellor for Research

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