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18th-century cartoonists — who might have loved Rob Ford — among Polanyi Prize-winning subjects | The Star

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      18th-century cartoonists — who might have loved Rob Ford — among Polanyi Prize-winning subjects

      By Louise Brown Education ReporterMon., Nov. 25, 2013

      Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can be thankful at least for this: Had he been mayor 200 years ago in Britain, newspaper cartoonists would have been even more ruthless, says a University of Toronto expert in political satire.

      “Without question, if the leading cartoonist back then — James Gillray — had depicted Rob Ford he would have been far more merciless than they are today,” said English Professor David Taylor, who studies British political satire from 1750 and 1830, what he calls the golden age of caricature.

      “King George III and Queen Charlotte were satirized mercilessly — one cartoon showed them on the toilet!” he recalled. “You’d have a backlash to that today; they were appallingly cruel.”

      Taylor is one of five professors to win a cool $20,000 each from Queen’s Park Monday as recipients of the Polanyi Prize for research in such diverse fields as mosquito hormones and cheating husbands to quantum physics and how to treat back pain.

      Taylor said cartoons began to be carried in newspapers by 1830 and became seen as a sign of true democracy and free speech. So many people would crowd around London’s “print shop” storefronts to see the latest cartoon, others complained it was hard to squeeze past. The cartoons were often more visually complex, with more words and often literary references, compared to today’s, “which you can read in a few seconds and get the point.”

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      The Polanyi Prizes for research honor University of Toronto Professor John Polanyi, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1986.

      Another winner who studies men behaving badly is University of Ottawa economics prof Roland Pongou, who says cheating husbands in sub-Saharan Africa are part of the reason women comprise 60 per cent of those with HIV/AIDS. He has found disease spreads more easily where infidelity is accepted and women are not equal.

      “Policy-makers in Africa should make efforts to improve the rights of women and then the sexual networks will not be as large,” said Pongou. If you reduced the higher death rate among women, he said, you could save 400,000 lives a year.

      York University Biology Professor Jean-Paul Paluzzi is studying the basic physiology of mosquitoes and ticks so we can find better ways to treat these carriers of diseases such as West Nile Virus and lyme disease.

      “You want to be able to target them more specifically, so you’re not affecting other species like honeybees. The more we know about these pests, the more we can refine our control of them.”

      Kinesiology Prof. Diane Gregory won for her research into lower back pain; the Wilfrid Laurier professor does experiments using the spines of animals and human cadavers to see what sort of pressure and movement can cause slipped discs.

      “Given the number of people with low back pain,” she said, “I guess I’ll never be out of a job.”

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      University of Toronto post-doctoral fellow professor Patrick Clancy won for his work in quantum physics, and in particular, his research into unusual new materials.

      “It gives us an opportunity to discover unusual new electronic and magnetic properties,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to harness these unusual properties and use them to develop new devices and technology.”

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