newsworthySummer 2008

Mary Dawson

Recasting History

Mary Dawson has an eye for the small things. As the longtime curator of the Museum of Natural History’s vertebrate paleontology department, she’s made big news for “tiny” finds such  as alligator teeth in the Arctic and a petite mouse believed to be the earliest ancestor of the living dormouse.

Now her enduring legacy is captured as part of Pittsburgh RECAST, a special exhibition at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. As part of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators’ 10th anniversary, Dawson’s portrait, painted by Gina Antognoli Scanlon, is one of 50 creations that tell the story of events, places, and people who have shaped the region’s history during the past 250 years. Fittingly, the painting shows Dawson holding a piece of a small rabbit’s jawbone.  

Once advised that “no woman will ever be a curator” at the Museum of Natural History, Dawson added that title to her name in 1970. As one of the most influential scientists in her field, she is a lifetime member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and a Fulbright Scholar. Her portrait, part of a series painted by Scanlon of influential women of Pittsburgh, is on view at the History Center through September 7.

The Name Game

Selecting the perfect name for a newborn can be one tough decision, baby dinosaurs included. So staff at Carnegie Museum of Natural History asked the public to help choose a nickname for its baby Apatosaurus, and after considering more than 150 imaginative suggestions, they settled on a moniker that’s as creative as it is scientifically correct.

Submitted by 11-year-old Josh Spyra of Liberty Boro, Ajax is a perfect fit for the toddling dinosaur that’s the only one of its kind on display in the world and a centerpiece of the museum’s Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit. Proof that Josh knows his dinosaurs, the name refers to a particular species classification of Apatosaurus.

“I did a lot of research into dinosaurs like Apatosaurus, and Ajax was the name that seemed to fit,” explains Josh. “It is really cool to name a dinosaur. I don’t know  
anybody else who has ever done it.”

Ajax is in good company. “Dippy,” the museum’s famous Diplodocus named for Andrew Carnegie, and “Jane,” the museum’s juvenile T. rex, are the only other dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History with nicknames.

Carnegie Science Center’s annual Science and Engineering FairThe Scientific Method

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be part of Carnegie Science Center’s annual Science and Engineering Fair. But it’s possible that some of the participants just might end up designing spaceships for NASA.

Now in its 69th year, the competition attracted more than 1,000 budding Einsteins, ranging from 6th to 12th grade, from western Pennsylvania and Maryland to showcase their “smarts” at Heinz Field, the Science Center’s next-door neighbor.

With more than $20,000 in project awards and $750,000 in college scholarships available, the competition was keen. In addition to the cash honors, three students also earned the right to represent the region at INTEL, the international science and engineering fair in Atlanta, Georgia — with all expenses paid.

And for student participation increasing nearly 100 percent since 1999, the fair itself earns an A+.

Light Up Thursdays

Pittsburghers are energizing their Thursday evenings—without shocking their budgets—thanks to a special admission discount at Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. During “Thursday Night Lights” from 5-8 p.m., visitors can now enjoy “buy-one-get-one” admission, perfect for busy professionals and families who can’t make it to the museums during the daytime, individuals looking for an alternative night out, and anyone seeking cost-conscious fun.

Sponsored by Cardello Electric Supply & Lighting, the Thursday night promotion runs through next March. Along with admission to the Museum of Art’s newly debuted Life on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International and the Museum of Natural History’s Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit, the two-for-one admission gives visitors the opportunity to explore all of their favorite spots and new additions in both museums. And for some extra voltage, visitors can enter a raffle to win a $500 Tiffany-style table lamp or a family pass to all four Carnegie Museums.

To light up Thursday nights, discount admission coupons are available exclusively at

The Andy Warhol MuseumQuite the eye-catcher

The Andy Warhol Museum is known for turning heads. But rewriting Hollywood scripts? That’s exactly what The Warhol inspired this past spring when producers for the romantic comedy She’s Out of My League happened by the museum on a scouting trip to Pittsburgh.

It was The Warhol’s expansive front windows that initially caught the eyes of producers in town searching for a nightclub with a similar entrance through which leading actor Jay Baruchel (of the movie Knocked Up fame) would first set eyes on the object of his affections. But once inside, they became so enamored with The Warhol that they decided to rewrite the script, changing the film’s setting from a nightclub to the museum, with lead actress Alice Eve (Starter for Ten) cast as a Warhol staffer.

So each evening for four days this past May, The Warhol’s front lobby was transformed into a movie set by producer and Pittsburgh native Jimmy Miller. Look for the Dreamworks film—and The Warhol—in theaters sometime in early 2009.

Mission: ScienceRay Betler

After more than 12 years of service, Ray Betler, a Pittsburgh native who knows a thing or two about blending science and leadership, is the new chair of Carnegie Science Center’s board.

As the 52-year-old president of Bombardier Transportation’s West Mifflin-based Total Transit Systems Division, Betler holds the distinction of being the youngest president and chief executive officer of the former Westinghouse Corporation. His engineering background and nearly 30-year industrial career will play a key role in the Science Center’s initiatives to provide experiences that help youngsters become part of the region’s science and technology workforce.

“Carnegie Science Center has ambitious plans to add new experiences and programming and to continue its important role in regional workforce development in the science and technology sector,” Betler says. “It’s a very exciting time for us all.”

The South Park resident and his wife, Joneen, have three sons and one grandson. Along with his duties at the Science Center, Betler is a Carnegie Museums Trustee and a board member of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Engineering Advisory Board, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and Dollar Bank. He also is a longtime member of the campaign cabinet for the United Way of Allegheny County.

Also in this issue:

Celebrating the Mark that Makes Us Human  ·  Voices From Mars  ·  American Doggedness and the Carnegie International  ·  Clash of the “Tyrant Lizards”  ·  Hip to Be Square  ·  Special Supplement: Thanks to Our Donors  ·  Director's Note  ·  Now Showing  ·  Face Time: Sam Taylor  ·  About Town: Robotic Wonder  ·  Field Trip: Red Hot Find  ·  Science & Nature: Ready, Set, Go! Sports Works 2.0  ·  Artistic License: Kinetic Energy  ·  Another Look: Section of Mollusks