Behind the Museum of Science

By Sheila Barth

Published December 18, 2013, issue of December 19, 2013.
Visitors learn how the immune system fights viruses at the Museum of Science’s Hall of Human Life.
Michael Malyszko
Visitors learn how the immune system fights viruses at the Museum of Science’s Hall of Human Life.

How did two transplanted and successful Jewish scientists end up being committed supporters of the Museum of Science? They came to study and work in Massachusetts, and ended up staying here. Today, Howard Messing, president and CEO of Meditech, serves as the museum’s chairman of the Board of Trustees, while Joshua Boger, Ph.D., executive chairman at Alkeus Pharmaceuticals Inc., is MOS’s vice chairman. Each shares a love of science and a sense of excitement about the Museum of Science.

Howard Messing

Messing’s enthusiasm for all things science sprang from his boyhood, growing up in New York. He frequently visited New York’s Museum of Natural History and the planetarium. At age 14, he was president of the Junior Astronomy Club. “A lot of my love of science was spawned there,” he said.

Howard Messing
Courtesy photo
Howard Messing

After graduating from high school at age 16, Messing earned a degree in electrical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He briefly attended graduate school, but then began working at Meditech. He has been with the company for 40 years.

Meditech creates software to automate the health care process at hospitals. Currently, Messing oversees all operations of the company, which employs 4,000 individuals in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Georgia.

Messing and his wife, Colleen, settled in Westwood and raised their daughter Lauren, now 28, and son Samuel, now 26. The family spent many weekends at the Museum of Science, where Messing “discovered what a wonderful institution it was.”

He was invited to serve on the museum’s board of trustees, and three years ago became chairman of the board. In that role, he selects the museum’s president, is involved in setting a strategic direction for the museum including fundraising, and is an ambassador to the community.

“It’s very important that people understand that the Museum of Science is not just for children,” Messing said. “I continue to learn [something there] every time,” he added.

Messing discussed MOS’s featured IMAX movie, “Jerusalem,” which focuses on three female teenagers— Jewish, Christian and Islamic.

“It’s wonderful, but in some ways it’s very sad. Everyone should see it before discussing the situation there,” Messing said. “They [filmmakers] hoped the three girls could become friends, but their communities wouldn’t accept it. The teens live close to each other but have never met … and probably won’t.”

Another exhibit very important to Messing was the Dead Sea Scrolls, which closed last month. “I like the fact that we showed both sides of the division (between science and religion)” he said.

However the new and innovative Hall of Human Life exhibit (see sidebar below) is Messing’s pride and joy.

“Many, many of those exhibits (in the Hall) are geared specifically so you can grasp it easier, by using your own [personal] data superimposed on others,” he explained. For example, visitors can measure the size of their ears and compare it to others by age or gender.

“Mine was the largest in the database in the past 150 years,” he said, laughing.

“It’s [the exhibit] something we hope becomes a pattern in other museums and in the world,” Messing said. “We’re always approached by researchers to gather data from a cross-section of the public, and this gives us a format for doing it.”

Joshua Boger, Ph.D.

An organic chemist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University, Joshua Boger originally hails from Concord, N.C., and now lives in Concord, Mass. He shares Messing’s exuberance about the museum, especially the Hall of Human Life exhibit. When he heard about the plans for it eight years ago, he wanted to become involved.

Joshua Boger
Courtesy photo
Joshua Boger

Founder and former CEO of Vertex Pharmaceutical, and current executive chairman at Alkeus Pharmaceuticals Inc., Boger, MOS’s vice chairman, works in governance across the museum, and on the advisory board of the Hall of Human Life.

Boger and his wife, Amy, are such fans of the museum that they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary there. While raising their family, they visited regularly with their three sons; Zachary, 29; Isaac, 26; and Samuel, 23.

Growing up, Boger, the middle son of an actress and textile chemist, inherited a penchant for both science and art. Those combined interests are an integral part of his life today.

Boger worked in research for 11 years at Merck, but left in 1989 to found Vertex in Cambridge, which employs around 2,000 people. In 2009, after almost 21 years, he stepped down to pursue non-profit commitments, including the Museum of Science. He’s also on the board of Harvard Medical School, where he serves as chairman emeritus, and is chair of Harvard Medical School’s campaign.

Politically, Boger supports pro-Israel candidates. Three years ago, he was honored by the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action of Boston for his work in supporting progressive causes and social justice. He’s also an active supporter of the Boston Food Bank.

“I have a lot of interests revolving around education and the arts. I love teaching students,” Boger said. He taught biochemistry and cellular engineering, and serves as a guest lecturer at Harvard Business and Harvard Kennedy School.

In addition, Boger serves as chairman of Boston’s Celebrity Series, and is an underwater photographer. On weekend afternoons throughout January 2014, the Ayer Lofts Gallery in Lowell will feature an exhibition of his work.

“The show is about colors, shapes and textures underwater you don’t see on the land,” he said.

His greatest love is encouraging people’s interest in science.

“Every baby is born a scientist. Babies sit in a crib, trying to figure out what the heck is going on. They’re full-time scientists,” Boger said.

“Schools tell people that science is hard, but they forget we’re born scientists. The museum tries to get to people’s innate sense of excitement, without this barrier,” he added.

The Museum of Science is located at 1 Science Park, Boston. Visit for hours and admission information.

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