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Martine Rothblatt

Martine Rothblatt

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Martine Aliana Rothblatt Ph.D, MBA, J.D.
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 (born 1954 as Martin Rothblatt) is an American lawyer, author, and entrepreneur. Rothblatt graduated from UCLA with a combined law and MBA degree in 1981, then began work in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, first in the field of communication satellite law, and eventually in life sciences projects like the Human Genome Project
Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project is an international scientific research project with a primary goal of determining the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up DNA, and of identifying and mapping the approximately 20,000–25,000 genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional...

. She is currently the founder and CEO of United Therapeutics and in 2007 was the second-most highly compensated executive in the District of Columbia.

Early life

Rothblatt was born in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, Illinois, but grew up in Southern California, first in San Diego and later in Los Angeles. Her father, Harold David Rothblatt, was a dentist for the Retail Clerks Union, and was the youngest son of the Chicago leatherworkers labor organizer Isadore Rothblatt. Her mother, Rosa Lee Bernstein, was a toastmistress and speech therapist at San Diego State College. Rothblatt's paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States around 1910 from Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

, Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Her maternal grandparents immigrated around the same timeframe from Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. She left college after two years and travelled throughout Europe, Turkey, Iran, Kenya and the Seychelles. It was at the NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 tracking station in the Seychelles, during the summer of 1974, that she had her epiphany to unite the world via satellite communications. She then returned to UCLA, graduating summa cum laude in communication studies
Communication studies
Communication Studies is an academic field that deals with processes of communication, commonly defined as the sharing of symbols over distances in space and time. Hence, communication studies encompasses a wide range of topics and contexts ranging from face-to-face conversation to speeches to mass...

 with a thesis on international direct broadcast satellite
Direct broadcast satellite
Direct broadcast satellite is a term used to refer to satellite television broadcasts intended for home reception.A designation broader than DBS would be direct-to-home signals, or DTH. This has initially distinguished the transmissions directly intended for home viewers from cable television...


As an undergraduate she became a convert to Gerard K. O'Neill's "High Frontier" plan for space colonization
Space colonization
Space colonization is the concept of permanent human habitation outside of Earth. Although hypothetical at the present time, there are many proposals and speculations about the first space colony...

 after analyzing his 1975 Physics Today cover story on the concept as a project for Professor Harland Epps' Topics in Modern Astronomy seminar. Rothblatt subsequently became an active member of the L-5 Society and its Southern California affiliate, OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Space Industrialization and Settlement). During her four year law-MBA program, also at UCLA, she published five articles on the law of satellite communications and prepared a business plan for the Hughes Space and Communications Group titled PanAmSat about how satellite spot beam
Spot beam
A spot beam, in telecommunications parlance, is a satellite signal that is specially concentrated in power A spot beam, in telecommunications parlance, is a satellite signal that is specially concentrated in power A spot beam, in telecommunications parlance, is a satellite signal that is specially...

 technology could be used to provide communication service to multiple Latin American countries. She also became a regular contributor on legal aspects of space colonization to the OASIS newsletter.


Upon graduation in 1981 Rothblatt was hired by the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling
Covington & Burling
Covington & Burling LLP is an international law firm with offices in Beijing, Brussels, London, New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Washington, DC. The firm advises multinational corporations on significant transactional, litigation, regulatory, and public policy matters...

 to represent the television broadcasting industry before the Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute , and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the...

 in the areas of direct broadcast satellites and spread spectrum communication. In 1982 she left to study astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 at the University of Maryland
University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Maryland, College Park is a top-ranked public research university located in the city of College Park in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C...

, but was soon retained by NASA to obtain FCC approval for the IEEE c-band system on its tracking and data relay satellites and by the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Radio Frequencies to safeguard before the FCC radio astronomy quiet bands used for deep space research. Later that year she was also retained by Gerard K. O'Neill to handle business and regulatory matters for his newly invented satellite navigation technology, known as the Geostar System. In 1984 she was retained by Rene Anselmo, founder of Spanish International Network, to implement her PanAmSat MBA thesis as a new company that would compete with the global telecommunications satellite monopoly, Intelsat. In 1986 she discontinued her astronomy studies and consulting work to become the full-time CEO of Geostar Corporation, under William E. Simon as Chairman. She left Geostar in 1990 to create both WorldSpace and Sirius Satellite Radio. She left these companies in 1997 to become the full-time Chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation.

Rothblatt is responsible for launching several communications satellite
Communications satellite
A communications satellite is an artificial satellite stationed in space for the purpose of telecommunications...

 companies, including the first nationwide vehicle location system (Geostar, 1983), the first private international spacecom project (PanAmSat
The former PanAmSat Corporation founded in 1984 by Reynold Anselmo, was a satellite service provider headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. It operated a fleet of communications satellites used by the entertainment industry, news agencies, internet service providers, government agencies, and...

, 1984), the first global satellite radio network (WorldSpace
1worldspace, formerly known as 'WorldSpace', is a currently defunct satellite radio network that provided service to over 170,000 subscribers in eastern and southern Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia with 96% coming from India...

, 1990), and the first non-geostationary satellite-to-car broadcasting system (Sirius Satellite Radio
Sirius Satellite Radio
Sirius Satellite Radio is a satellite radio service operating in North America, owned by Sirius XM Radio.Headquartered in New York City, with smaller studios in Los Angeles and Memphis, Sirius was officially launched on July 1, 2002 and currently provides 69 streams of music and 65 streams of...

, 1990).

As an attorney-entrepreneur, Rothblatt was also responsible for leading the efforts to obtain worldwide approval, via new international treaties, of satellite orbit/spectrum allocations for space-based navigation services (1987) and for direct-to-person satellite radio transmissions (1992). She also led the International Bar Association
International Bar Association
The International Bar Association is an international association of lawyers and lawyers' associations. The IBA's stated purpose is to promote an exchange of information between legal associations worldwide, support the independence of the judiciary and the right of lawyers to practice their...

's biopolitical project to develop a draft Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights for the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 (whose final version was adopted by the UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 on 11 November 1997, and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 on 9 December 1998).

In the late 1990s, motivated by her daughter being diagnosed with life-threatening pulmonary hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension
In medicine, pulmonary hypertension is an increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein, or pulmonary capillaries, together known as the lung vasculature, leading to shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, and other symptoms, all of which are exacerbated by exertion...

, Rothblatt entered the world of the life sciences by first creating the PPH Cure Foundation and later by founding a medical biotechnology
Biotechnology is a field of applied biology that involves the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in engineering, technology, medicine and other fields requiring bioproducts. Biotechnology also utilizes these products for manufacturing purpose...

 company (United Therapeutics, 1996). At that time she also began studying for a Ph.D. in medical ethics
Medical ethics
Medical ethics is a system of moral principles that apply values and judgments to the practice of medicine. As a scholarly discipline, medical ethics encompasses its practical application in clinical settings as well as work on its history, philosophy, theology, and sociology.-History:Historically,...

 at the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary, University of London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

. The degree was granted in June 2001 based upon her dissertation on the conflict between private and public interests in xenotransplantation
Xenotransplantation , is the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one species to another. Such cells, tissues or organs are called xenografts or xenotransplants...

. This thesis, defended before England's leading bioethicist John Harris, was later published by Ashgate House under the title Your Life or Mine.

Personal life

In 1982, Martin Rothblatt married Bina Aspen, an African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 woman. The two of them have four children (from oldest to second youngest) Eli, Sunee, Gabriel, and Jenesis. In 1994, she underwent sex reassignment surgery
Sex reassignment surgery
Sex reassignment surgery is a term for the surgical procedures by which a person's physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble...

 and changed her name to Martine Aliana Rothblatt. She has since become a vocal advocate of transgenderism.

Social activism

In 2004, Rothblatt launched the “Terasem Movement”, a transhumanist school of thought focused on promoting joy
Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources....

, diversity
Diversity (politics)
In the political arena, the term diversity is used to describe political entities with members who have identifiable differences in their backgrounds or lifestyles....

, and the prospect of technological immortality via personal cyberconsciousness and geoethical nanotechnology
Molecular nanotechnology
Molecular nanotechnology is a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis. This is distinct from nanoscale materials...

. Through a charitable foundation, leaders of this school convene publicly accessible symposia, publish explanatory analyses, conduct demonstration projects, issue grants, and encourage public awareness and adherence to Terasem values and goals. The movement maintains a "Terasem Island" on the Internet-based virtual world Second Life
Second Life
Second Life is an online virtual world developed by Linden Lab. It was launched on June 23, 2003. A number of free client programs, or Viewers, enable Second Life users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars...

, which is currently composed of two sims.

Through her blog Mindfiles, Mindware and Mindclones, she writes about “the coming age of our own cyberconsciousness and techno-immortality“ and started a vlog together with Ulrike Reinhard
Ulrike Reinhard
Ulrike Reinhard, is a German publisher, author and futurist. She holds a masters degree and PHD in business administration specializing in marketing and human resources. She worked for ARD and ZDF and is currently editor in chief of we-magazine....

 on the same topic.

Media appearances

On December 14, 2006, on The Howard Stern Show, Stern mentioned meeting Martine Rothblatt, and started a discussion on the public confusion over her gender, in which he referred to her as “the Martine Luther Queen of radio”.

On May 31, 2011 the Radiolab podcast did a story on Bina48, a robot that was commissioned by Martine as a machine-based representation of her wife, Bina Rothblatt, and created by Hanson Robotics.

Critical reception

In a 4 January 2008 blog post entitled Marketing Transhumanism, lawyer and bioethicist Wesley J. Smith
Wesley J. Smith
Wesley J. Smith is a lawyer and an award-winning author, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism. He is also a lawyer and consultant for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant for the Center for Bioethics and...

 ridiculed the feasibility of the Terasam Movement Foundation's claims to offer a free service that can "preserve one’s individual consciousness so that it remains viable for possible uploading with consciousness software into a cellular regenerated or bionanotechnological body by future medicine and technology". Smith facetiously questioned whether this offer would be followed by the sale of "longevity products".

In a 16 August 2009 blog post entitled The “Imagination” of a Robot Cultist, rhetorician and technocritic Dale Carrico
Dale Carrico
Dale Carrico is an American critical theorist and rhetorician. He is best known for proposing techno-progressivism as a more rational and sophisticated alternative to both transhumanism and bioconservatism....

 harshly criticized Rothblatt's writings for promoting what he argues to be the pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

 of mind uploading and the techno-utopianism
Technological utopianism refers to any ideology based on the belief that advances in science and technology will eventually bring about a utopia, or at least help to fulfill one or another utopian ideal...

 of the Californian Ideology
Californian Ideology
The Californian Ideology is a set of beliefs combining bohemian and anti-authoritarian attitudes from the counterculture of the 1960s with techno-utopianism and support for neoliberal economic policies...

. In a 28 February 2010 blog post entitled More Serious Futurology from Transhumanist Martine Rothblatt, Carrico criticized Rothblatt's claims about digital technology and "mindclones" as being nothing more than wishful thinking
Wishful thinking
Wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality or reality...

. In a 5 June 2010 blog post entitled Rothblatt's Artificial Imbecillence, Carrico criticized Rothblatt for caring more about rights of "virtual, uploaded persons" — who he argues are neither real nor possible — more than the rights of actual human persons and some nonhuman persons, such great apes and dolphins.

In a 4 July 2010 New York Times article entitled Making Friends with a Robot Named Bina48, journalist Amy Harmon
Amy Harmon
Amy Harmon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The New York Times. After receiving a B.A. degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan, she began her career in journalism as the Opinion page editor of the Michigan Daily, the university's student newspaper...

 described as frustrating but occasionally thrilling her conversation with one of "humanity's first cybernetic companions," created by Rothblatt and Hanson Robotics. She concluded it was "not that different from interviewing certain flesh and blood subjects."


  • 2B, Transformer Films, 2009. The film is a techno-thriller
    Techno-thrillers are a hybrid genre, drawing subject matter generally from spy/action thrillers, fantasy/war novels, and science fiction...

     set in the near-future that deals with the moral questions confronting society following the creation of the world's first posthuman
    Posthuman may refer to:*Posthuman, a hypothetical future being whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer human by our current standards...

  • The Singularity Is Near, Exponential Films, 2010. The film, based upon Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity Is Near
    The Singularity Is Near
    The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology is a 2005 update of Raymond Kurzweil's 1999 book, The Age of Spiritual Machines and his 1990 book The Age of Intelligent Machines. In it, as in the two previous versions, Kurzweil attempts to give a glimpse of what awaits us in the near future...

    , is directed by Anthony Waller and stars Pauley Perrette
    Pauley Perrette
    Pauley Perrette is an American actress, best known for playing Abby Sciuto[p] on the U.S. TV series NCIS, a role that has made her the most popular actress on U.S. primetime television. She is also a published writer, a singer and civil rights advocate.-Early life:Perrette was born in New Orleans...


External links