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Biology, especially genetics, has become an increasingly powerful science in recent decades, affecting not only medicine and health care, but other fields as well. During the 1990s, DNA infused courtrooms, and became crucial evidence in trials ranging from Central Park to the White House. Faculty from research institutions provided expertise on the accuracy, precision, and reliability of various techniques and helped modify them to become more useful. DNA forensics and related genealogy are now a formidable part of the tool kit of criminal investigation.

Natural sciences increasingly affect art history and conservation as well. Until recently, most of the synergy came with chemistry. A widely known application is radiocarbon or carbon-14 dating. Physics has also grown in importance, particularly through imaging techniques that enhance dimensions of a work of art or cultural heritage hard or impossible to perceive with the naked eye. Cultural institutions increasingly operate well-instrumented laboratories employing highly trained chemists and physicists.

While some traditional biological fields such as entomology already hold a place in conservation science and practice, other biological fields such as molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology have just begun to play roles. Molecular biologists, population geneticists, microbiologists, forensic experts, and physicians can work together with other natural scientists and with genealogists, historians, artists, and curators to discover and decode previously inaccessible knowledge and to preserve cultural heritage.

A central goal is to develop protocols and pioneer methods to obtain biological materials with traces of DNA attributable to artists and others importantly associated with cultural heritage, from artworks, notebooks, descendants, burial places, and other sources. DNA sequences as well as other fresh evidence might offer new facts and new insights about extraordinary visual acuity or other sensory attributes, family history, and materials used. Microbiomes living on the surface of works might also advance knowledge about how to slow the degradation of cultural heritage.

The Foundation welcomes proposals for between $30,000-$100,000 to advance Biology in Art. The Foundation welcomes efforts along the lines suggested above and ideas not foreseen here.

The Foundation generally provides seed money or partial support, rarely renews grants for continuing activities, does not normally fund endowments, and aims to achieve high impact by funding novel projects and forward-looking leaders. Among international initiatives, the Foundation has a long-standing priority in Franco-American scientific cooperation.

Interested proponents should send a "letter of inquiry" not to exceed two pages to


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