“Diversity and unity are the two magical words that can make any project succeed.”
Martine Aliana Rothblatt (born 1954) is an American lawyer, author, and entrepreneur. Rothblatt graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a combined law and MBA degree in 1981, then began work inWashington, D.C., first in the field of communications satellite law, and eventually in life sciences projects like the Human Genome Project. She is the founder and Chief executive officer of United Therapeutics and the highest-paid female executive in the United States. She is also the creator of GeoStar and Sirius Radio.
Early life and education
Rothblatt was born as Martin Rothblatt in Chicago, Illinois in 1954, to Rosa Lee and Hal Rothblatt, a dentist, to and observant Jewish family. She was raised in a suburb of San Diego, California.
Rothblatt left college after two years and traveled 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 University of California, Los Angeles, graduating summa cum laude in communication studies in 1977, 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 1974 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 L5 Society and its Southern California affiliate, Organization for the Advancement of Space Industrialization and Settlement (OASIS).
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 PanAmSatabout 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 graduating from UCLA in 1981 with a joint MBA/JD degree, 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, College Park, 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 Sirius in 1992 and WorldSpace in 1997 to become the full-time Chairwoman and CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation.
Rothblatt is responsible for launching several communications satellite companies, including 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 November 11, 1997, and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 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. In 2013, Rothblatt was the highest-paid female CEO in America, earning $38 million.