The late Clare Boothe Luce, a political and literary figure from the 1920s through most of the '80s, had many careers: actor, playwright, writer (for Vogue and Vanity Fair), United States ambassador (to Italy), wife (of Henry Luce, founder of Time, Life, and Fortune magazines), mother, war correspondent, and member of Congress. Add philanthropist to the list: yesterday the Clare Boothe Luce Endowment Fund was announced - a gift of $70 million ``to encourage more women to enter the fields of science.'' The money will be distributed among 14 universities and a discretionary fund will be awarded to outstanding women at other institutions. Sciences included are: chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, engineering, computer science, and mathematics. She excluded medicine, where women are well represented.

According to Henry Luce III, president of the Henry Luce Foundation, universities will propose uses for the money, which will then be approved by the fund's selection committee. ``The awards can be for undergraduate scholarships, or graduate fellowships, or junior faculty,'' says Mr. Luce.

One of the recipient schools is Georgetown University in Washington. ``We hope to use these funds to recruit the cream of the crop,'' says Ellen Henderson, professor of biology. ``We need those women not only to become scientists themselves, but we need many of them to stay in universities as teachers.''

``The establishment of the fund is extremely timely,'' says Sheila Widnall, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. ``Everybody is concerned about the projected shortfall of scientists and engineers.... Women represent the largest potential reservoir of talent.''

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