Howard Hughes, the brash and brilliant scion of a Texas entrepreneur, parlayed a relatively modest inheritance into a fortune. A man of restless intellect, great energy, and diverse talents, he dabbled in movies; designed, built and raced airplanes; made TWA a premier international airline; and nurtured the Hughes Aircraft Company into one of the country's largest and most important defense contractors. Although in his later years Mr. Hughes retreated into a reclusive existence dominated by illness, his life was nonetheless one of remarkable achievement.
It is likely that the creation in 1953 of the medical institute that bears his name will be Mr. Hughes' most enduring accomplishment. His vision for his scientific philanthropy was neither modest nor ordinary: He wanted his medical institute to be committed to basic research, to probe "the genesis of life itself."
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the nation's largest private funder of science education, is awarding a total of $70 million to 50 research universities in 30 states and the District of Columbia through its Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Program.