From the Founding Fathers to the recent inductees, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has, as George Washington wrote, “a high reputation” across many disciplines. In 2000, three Fellows of the American Psychological Society were inducted into the Academy: Robert M. Krauss, Columbia University; Paul Rozin, University of Pennsylvania; and Leslie G. Ungerleider, National Institute of Mental Health.Election into the prestigious Academy is an enormous honor. “We humans seem to need recognition and awards throughout our careers, and this is a very appropriate and constructive way to do it,” Rozin said. “It produces some important interaction across disciplines, and also organizes talent for important investigations and reports on major issues facing our society.”
The American Academy is one of three national academic honorary organizations, the other two being the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. All three go back to the earliest days of the United States.
Of the three organizations, the American Academy has the broadest focus. Members include non-academics such as creative artists, business leaders, outstanding performers, and others. Inductees along with Rozin, Krauss, and Ungerleider in 2000 were such notables as Placido Domingo, Julia Child, George Lucas, and Steve Jobs. Although the majority of Academy members are academics, they also come from industry, law, public service, the arts, journalism, and other professions. The Academy is divided into different sections based on discipline; psychologists are elected to either to the Social Sciences or to the Biological Sciences sections (in 1999-2000, the regular meetings of the Academy were devoted to psychology).
“I was thrilled to be elected in 1987, and I continue to be awed by colleagues with whom I serve on committees and in council,” said Sandra Scarr, APS President from 1996-97. “The Academy is an inspiring institution that continues to contribute quietly to the betterment of the nation.”
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 to gather together the Founding Fathers’ ideal citizens – patriot-intellectuals. According to Scarr, John Adams and his contemporaries believed the future of the fledgling nation depended on the concerted leadership of thoughtful, committed men from all regions of the country.
“Membership in the Academy was not just an honor; it was a commitment to help shape the future of the new nation,” she said. “Thus, it is, and has been for more than 200 years, a humbling experience to be elected by the members to fellowship in the American Academy.”
The true scope of the Academy’s membership became evident to APS Fellow Steven Pinker, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during his induction ceremony when the secretary read the acceptance letter of an earlier honoree – George Washington.
The original purpose of the Academy was to provide “a forum for a select group of scholars, members of the learned professions, and government and business leaders to work together on behalf of the democratic interests of the republic.” Today, the more-than 4,000 members, elected in recognition of their distinguished contributions to science, scholarship, public affairs, and the arts, have dual objectives – the election of new members and the operation of a diverse program of projects and studies examining the needs and problems of society.
The Academy recognizes the achievements of scientists, artists, statesmen, journalists, and other public figures, and brings them together to analyze and discuss current issues of national concern. Its journal, Daedalus, is, according to Pinker, an important public forum for new ideas that need to be presented in scholarly detail but deserve an audience beyond specialized academic journals.
ACADEMY’S FOCUS ON PSYCHOLOGY
Pinker said the Academy has a long history reflected in “eccentric terminology.” As an example of that, Pinker referred to the group’s meetings, called “Stated Meetings,” which are sequentially ordered from the first ones in the 18th century – the latest was in the thousands.
In 1999-2000 the Academy devoted all of the Stated Meetings to psychology. The series, called “Windows on the Mind,” included talks on language, early development, rationality, behavioral genetics, dreams, and consciousness.
For a complete list of the 2000 members or more information on the Academy, vist its web site at www.amacad.org. A list of APS Members who are members of the Academy was published in the December 2000 issue of the Observer.