Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DisaPPearing ProPhet

The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Genius

Margie Profet was always a study in sharp contradictions.
A maverick thinker remembered for her innocent demeanor, she was a woman who paired running shorts with heavy sweaters year-round, and had a professional pedigree as eccentric as her clothing choices: Profet had multiple academic degrees but no true perch in academe. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Profet published original theories about female reproduction that pushed the boundaries of evolutionary biology, forcing an entire field to take note.
Indeed, back then it was hard not to notice Margie Profet, a vibrant young woman who made a “forever impression” on grade school chums and Harvard Ph.D.s alike. Today, the most salient fact about Profet is her absence.
Neither friends, former advisers, publishers, nor ex-lovers has any idea what happened to her or where she is today. Sometime between 2002 and 2005, Profet, who was then in her mid-40s, vanished without a trace.
Best known for three landmark papers in the prestigious Quarterly Review of Biology (QRB) and Evolutionary Theory, Profet recast a trio of everyday curses into a trinity of evolutionary blessings. Allergies, menstruation, and morning sickness, she argued, eliminate germs, carcinogens, and mutation-causing toxins from the body.
Her theories were hotly debated among scientists but embraced by mainstream media. In quick succession, Profet landed a six-figure MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and published two books, including Protecting Your Baby-to-Be, on what to eat—and avoid—during pregnancy.
Magazines and newspapers played up her model looks and touted her beautiful mind. Her “radical new views,” the New York Times announced, gave “ordinary annoyances an active and salutary spin.”                                                                                          read on...

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