Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

“Every fifth breath you take–thank Prochlorococcus for that oxygen,” Chisholm says.

While Chisholm and Olson’s 1988 paper didn’t get much early notice, it did catch the attention of Washington Post science writer Boyce Rensberger, who wrote an item on it that August. A decade later, Rensberger and Chisholm would become MIT colleagues when he was appointed director of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships program. As Rensberger packed up his MIT desk in preparation for retirement at the end of June, he chuckled when he recalled the 20-year-old news brief. “The claim was, it was possibly the most abundant organism on earth,” he says. “Reporters–especially science reporters–love superlatives. The most, the biggest, the farthest, the oldest.”

For the dozens of scientists gathered at Prochlorococcusfest, the 20 years since the discovery have been productive. And the researchers proved that they know how to party. After dinner, ­Shapiro led the crowd in the Prochlorococcus Anniversary Song, encoring with the global-warming ditty “Santa Claus Is Going to Drown.” Emcee Luke Thompson, one of Chisholm’s grad students, tossed out stuffed plush microbes, prompting quibbles about whether it was accurate of the toy company to call Biddulphia “scum.” Many Prochlorococktails–which looked suspiciously like margaritas–were downed.

After 20 years studying Prochlorococcus, Chisholm isn’t flagging. “I really am passionate about our field,” she says. “It’s gotten incredibly exciting.”

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: Erik Zettler

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me