Martine Rothblatt

Martine Rothblatt

Martine Aliana Rothblatt Ph.D, MBA, J.D. (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., first in the field of communication satellite law, and eventually in life sciences projects like the Human Genome Project. 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.[1]


Early life

Rothblatt was born in Chicago, 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, Ukraine. Her maternal grandparents immigrated around the same timeframe from Poland. She left college after two years and travelled throughout Europe, Turkey, Iran, Kenya and the Seychelles. It was at the NASA 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 with a thesis on international direct broadcast satellites.

As an undergraduate she became a convert to Gerard K. O'Neill's "High Frontier" plan for space colonization 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 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 to represent the television broadcasting industry before the Federal Communications Commission in the areas of direct broadcast satellites and spread spectrum communication. In 1982 she left to study astronomy at the University of Maryland, 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 companies, including the first nationwide vehicle location system (Geostar, 1983), the first private international spacecom project (PanAmSat, 1984), the first global satellite radio network (WorldSpace, 1990), and the first non-geostationary satellite-to-car broadcasting system (Sirius Satellite Radio, 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's biopolitical project to develop a draft Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights for the United Nations (whose final version was adopted by the UNESCO on 11 November 1997, and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1998).

In the late 1990s, motivated by her daughter being diagnosed with life-threatening pulmonary hypertension, Rothblatt entered the world of the life sciences by first creating the PPH Cure Foundation and later by founding a medical biotechnology company (United Therapeutics, 1996). At that time she also began studying for a Ph.D. in medical ethics at the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London. The degree was granted in June 2001 based upon her dissertation on the conflict between private and public interests in xenotransplantation. 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 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 and changed her name to Martine Aliana Rothblatt. She has since become a vocal advocate of transgenderism.[2]

Social activism

In 2004, Rothblatt launched the “Terasem Movement”, a transhumanist school of thought focused on promoting joy, diversity, and the prospect of technological immortality via personal cyberconsciousness and geoethical nanotechnology. 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, 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 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 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".[3]

In a 16 August 2009 blog post entitled The “Imagination” of a Robot Cultist, rhetorician and technocritic Dale Carrico harshly criticized Rothblatt's writings for promoting what he argues to be the pseudoscience of mind uploading and the techno-utopianism of the Californian Ideology.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

In a 4 July 2010 New York Times article entitled Making Friends with a Robot Named Bina48, journalist Amy Harmon 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."[7]



  • 2B, Transformer Films, 2009. The film is a techno-thriller set in the near-future that deals with the moral questions confronting society following the creation of the world's first posthuman.
  • The Singularity Is Near, Exponential Films, 2010. The film, based upon Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity Is Near, is directed by Anthony Waller and stars Pauley Perrette.

See also

External links


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