Installed: 12/96------------------------------Updated: 3/9/2011
At this web-site, and within the constraints set by the 10 Megabytes of www storage provided by my Internet Service Provider (Pipeline/Earthlink), I'll exploit the unique ability of hypertext links and the World Wide Web to help you to explore
This web-site collects together some of my most important and interesting personal published and unpublished papers. Each usually will be presented on these pages in abstract and/or summary form or as a copy of the first page, and with a downloadable link to an
Adobe Acrobat version of the original document.
Free Abobe Acrobat Readers for Mac, DOS, Win and Unix platforms can be downloaded from
My entire web-site represents a quixotic attempt to change the way the world at large looks at science.
People care less and less about science these days primarily because of the ways it's taught, both formally in schools, in books and by the media. Poets of science, like the late Lewis Thomas, have properly criticized the current Art of Teaching Science---for example, noting that it's usually taught as a "an unambiguous unalterable and endlessly useful display of data that only needs to be packaged and installed somewhere in one's temporal lobe in order to achieve a full understanding of the natural world." In short, its presentation seems to be either too complicated,---or it's a bore!
A lot of the fun in science comes from unexpected surprises. And these are usually hidden in an attempt to make the entire edifice, and its individual parts, seem beautifully continuous and coherent. Well it just isn't that way. And the real way it is is what makes it exciting. And in so far as it helps us to understand the natural world, it's terribly important!
If the best elements of civilization are to survive and prosper, science has to be understood and valued by everyone!
As a child, I was curious about how things worked; and aside from regularly asking adults, "Why?", I began trying to find some answers on my own. This was the beginning of a life-long fascination with unsupervised learning. I took broken clocks apart (and years later, figured out how to repair them), dissected fish and frogs, learned about electricity, transformers and motors from my electric train, and built crystal radios; not terribly out-of-the-ordinary childhood experiences for my generation. This curiosity helped refine a way of putting pieces of puzzles together in my mind; to develop what is usually referred to as "physical intuition". At an early age, it did for me part of what good laboratory experiences are designed to do for the scientist-in-training.
Some people are mainly logical; they develop solutions to puzzles, piece by piece in a linear manner, using strict logical rules. But such a person can easily get hung up when pieces of the puzzle are missing.
Others are mainly physically intuitive. They develop a sense of a multi-dimensional image of the problem space, and can more easily "sense" solutions, even when pieces are missing. Of course, some exceptional individuals (like the late Nobel Laureate Physicist, Richard Feynman) are both extraordinarily intuitive as well as logical.
A constantly maturing physical intuition has permitted me to capitalize on the chance observations I make, in and out of the lab. That's put me at an advantage with respect to other scientists. It's also made me voraciously consume scientific "facts" as grist for my mental mill. And that may help explain why I've successfully developed solutions for problems across a rather disparate range of scientific disciplines.
Contrary to myths that exaggerate the role of careful planing in the "steady" advance of science, I believe that somewhat haphazard contingent paths are the rule, rather than the exception, in the progress of most of science. This Website should, at the very least, convey something of how the accidents of time, place, and social association, as they impinge upon a prepared mind, have led to the development of a wide range of novel and useful technical tools. It's designed to highlight largely-unpredictable threads that have often connected one of my works, or interests, to others; particularly those works which have had (or should have had?) a substantial scientific or social impact.
For example, from:
"Tenuous but contingent connections" Electrophoresis 8, 3-13 (1987),
presented when I accepted the Founders Award of The Electrophoresis Society, in London in 1986, for my role as a co-inventor of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (also called PAGE):
"Viewed at some distance, and averaged over time, the progress of science, like that of biological evolution, seems steady and inexorable. To understand biological evolution, which is almost entirely dependent upon the exploitation of accidents, it is helpful to understand discovery and invention, the engines of science- and vice versa. When examined in detail, periods of stasis are followed by saltatory spurts of progress, as many new niches can suddenly be exploited with new experimental and intellectual tools. In accounts of many scientific discoveries, the exploitation of opportunistic serendipity is artificially made to appear planned, and progress is made to appear quite steady. Movement in many areas of my work has been characterized by periods of stasis, interrupted by spurts of progress, and directions in my scientific career have often been set by circumstantial accidents, --of whom I happened to know at a particular time,--by changes in the available mechanisms for support of education and research,--and even by my nonprofessional diversions. So you may find interest in anecdotal ramblings about some of the electrophoretic links in my career. I will review threads of coincidence from the 1940's to the present, leading to and from the "discoveries" of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and controlled "steady-state-stacking".
Download original"Tenuous but contingent connections" (264K)
(if you don't already have it !)
Born, 2/8/26, Bronx, NY; De Witt Clinton High School, 1940-1943; USNR, PhM2C, 1944-1946; Columbia College, AB 1948 ; Columbia University, AM 1949, PhD 1957; Instructor in Histology, Res.Asst.in Cytology, Res. Assoc.in Cytology, Columbia Univ. 1949-1964; Res. Assoc. Path., Mt. Sinai Hosp., NYC 1954-1966; Prof. Path.(Biol.), 1966-1991, Emeritus Prof. Path. 1992-present, Mt. Sinai School of Med. Vis. Prof. Harvard Univ., 1967-1968. N.S.F. Devel. Biol, S. S., 1970-1972. Consultant, Am. Cyanamid, 1957-1958; CANALCO, 1962-1969; Bioelectric Instrument Co., 1963-1967; Airborne Instruments Lab., 1965-1967; Space Gen. Corp., 1965-1966; Farand Optical Corp., 1966-1967; IBM Watson Labs., 1967-1968; Technicon Corp./Miles Corp./Bayer Corp/now Seimens., 1969-2003; Director, Instrumedics, Inc./Leica, 1991-2006; Director & V. Pres., Irristat International, Inc. 1980-2003. Member, Columbia Univ. Seminar on Global Habitability, 1983-1991. Married to Theresa Roller, 1945; 4 children; 9 grandchildren; 6 great grandchildren.
Technical Specialties: Cell Biology; Cytochemistry; Flow-Cytometry; Electrophoresis; Bioengineering and Biophysics; Electro-optics; Optical & Electron Microscopy; Unsupervised Learning; Information Theory; Pattern-Recognition and Artificial Neural Networks; Agricultural Irrigation.
Len Ornstein's U.S. Patents
Most of ‘Len's Published Work’
Hematology and Cytometry (See Published Work and Tenuous)
Cell Biology and Histology (See Published Work and Tenuous)
Unsupervised Pattern-Recognition and Artificial Neural Networks
Agricultural and Horticultural Irrigation & the Irristat™
Science and Social Policy
Global Warming and its 'Cure'
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