A quarter-century after the word "biotechnology" entered theEnglish language and nearly a century and a half after theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)was founded in 1848, a biotechnologist has been chosen tohead that organization.

Rita Colwell will take office Feb. 24 as president-elect of AAASfollowing the association's annual meeting in San Francisco. Ayear later she will assume the presidency and in 1996 sheUllchair the board of directors.

Microbiologist Colwell heads the University of Maryland'sBiotechnology Institute, which she co-founded in 1985. She is aleading international proponent of marine biotechnology.

"We've had 40 years of science dominated by physicists, spacescientists and engineers," said the university's chancellor,Donald Langenberg, who is a past AAAS president. "I think it isparticularly significant, in the era of genetic engineering and itspowerful contributions to the world society, that the AAASmembership has chosen Dr. Colwell, a prominent life scientist,as its incoming president."

AAAS members cast 15,667 votes for Colwell; her opponent,microbiologist Eugene Cota-Robles, a professor emeritus at theUniversity of California, Santa Cruz, received 6,240 votes. Theassociation's membership is approximately 140,000,spokeswoman Ellen Cooper told BioWorld. The vote was takenby mail-in ballot; ballots were included in the June 25 issue ofScience. A meeting of the AAAS board of directors on Dec. 10and 11 ratified the membership's choice, which was announcedlast week.

Besides being the first biotechnologist to win the AAASpresidency, Colwell is the seventh woman to do so in theassociation's 146 years of existence. The current president isbiologist Eloise Clark of Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

The term "biotechnology" is thought to have been coined circa1979 by financial analyst Nelson Schneider, who published anewsletter by that name at E. F. Hutton. -P David N. Leff

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.