``The greatest risk may well come from a completely unanticipated direction,'' Jessica Tuchman Mathews has written about the future of the global environment. ``We lack both crucial knowledge and early-warning systems.'' According to those who know her, Dr. Mathews herself is well on the way to becoming one of the world's most knowledgeable early-warning systems.

A graduate of Radcliffe College, she earned a PhD in biochemistry and biophysics from the California Institute of Technology in 1973. A former member of the editorial board of the Washington Post, she was director of the Office of Global Issues at the National Security Council during the Carter administration. Like her mother, historian Barbara Tuchman, she brings a clear and concise writing style to matters of great complexity.

``She is particularly gifted at putting things in a policy-oriented and immediately understandable way,'' says Donald Lesh, president of the Global Tomorrow Coalition.

``She has made herself deliberately, by overt efforts, one of the most incisive and able and well-informed analysts of the current human circumstance and government that we have,'' says George M. Woodwell, head of the Woods Hole Research Center on Cape Cod and a noted specialist on global warming.

He especially praises her understanding of the interface between science and public policy: ``She's made the most pragmatic and straightforward suggestions that she could make to our own government.''

``She's very able,'' notes Timothy Atkeson, assistant administrator for international activities of the US Environmental Protection Agency, adding that her recent article in Foreign Affairs is ``characteristic of her first-class work.''

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