Schmidt-Nielsen Autobiography Details Scientific Adventures

DURHAM, N.C. - Indiana Jones would no doubt have hung up his famed hat and whip out of envious resignation had he read the new autobiography of Duke physiologist Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, The Camel's Nose: Memoirs of a Curious Scientist (Island Press, 1998).

While his students and colleagues might think of the distinguished, soft-spoken Schmidt-Nielsen as a much-honored researcher and teacher, he spins tales in his book of daring round-the-world scientific adventures from Saigon to the Sahara, from the Arctic to the Amazon, during which he conducted meticulous scientific experiments that have yielded startling revelations.

Along the way, he has feasted on such delicacies as badger, rattlesnake, anaconda, locust and fat-tailed lizards. He has figured out how to precisely weigh a camel, slept in a freezing desert among nomads, collected turtle tears and lugged a sackful of saltwater frogs through a coastal swamp in Thailand. And, he has suffered the indignity of having a pet baby desert fox nestled in his pocket experience diarrhea.

Schmidt-Nielsen, 82, is certainly the only physiologist ever honored with a bronze statue of himself contemplating a camel -- a sculpture now installed amidst a grove of trees outside the Duke Biological Sciences building.

He also is among the university's most decorated scientists, whose honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the French Academy of Sciences and, in 1992, the International Prize for Biology, the Japanese equivalent of the Nobel Prize. The last honor brought him a meeting with the Emperor and Empress of Japan. He also holds a lifetime investigatorship from the National Institutes of Health.

These honors came because of the success of his life's work on the study of how animals adapt to environmental extremes that would seem impossible. For example, he and his colleagues discovered how camels go for months without water by allowing

Contact: Dennis Meredith
Duke University

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