Our early ancestors, I suspect, first climbed out of the sea and developed appendages for living on land so they could scratch out figures on rocks in order to rank themselves by size, strength, speed, cunning, and most creative use of opposable thumbs.
As early as the second century B.C., travelers in the classical world were packing guidebooks to help them cast a discerning eye on what would become known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. “I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus,” wrote the poet Antipater of Sidon, “but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.’”
Just one of those seven ancient wonders, the Great Pyramid of Giza, remains largely intact today—but our appetite for “world’s greatest” data has only grown through the centuries, stoked in recent years by electronic media, instant feedback and infographics.
This issue of Vanderbilt Magazine, from cover to class notes, abounds with stories and images that feed our human desire to quantify and affirm our collective achievements. Our front cover and photo essay celebrate the Commodores’ first-ever men’s national championship, the College World Series.
Our opening 1,000 Words photo captures the exuberance of Vanderbilt Aerospace Club students who created and built the rocket that won them the annual NASA Student Launch rocketry competition championship for the second straight year.
Paul Govern’s feature story demonstrates why Vanderbilt has poured significant resources into building the world’s largest biomedical informatics facility—and how the electronic health record is yielding information that will benefit all of us.
On a lighter note, Seth Robertson’s story offers readers a partial roundup of the many places Cornelius Vanderbilt and his descendants have left their mark, from New York’s Grand Central Terminal to San Juan, Puerto Rico. They may not quite rival the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but they’re worth filing away for reference when you travel.
On the topic of rankings: Have we mentioned Vanderbilt Magazine’s recent accolades? (She said disingenuously.) Earlier this year Vanderbilt Magazine won the Grand Award (the top honor) in the Magazine II category in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE) District III competition among member universities in the Southeast, and also picked up an Award of Excellence for magazine improvement (in support of our 2012 redesign). And most recently, Vanderbilt Magazine received a Silver Award in the national 2014 CASE Circle of Excellence competition. It was among only three publications out of 35 entries honored in the Magazine Publishing Improvement category.
Thanks for your support and your ideas.
Lo, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.
—GAYNELLE DOLL, EDITOR