University of Rochester

Rochester Professors Named Fellows of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

May 2, 2001

Two University of Rochester faculty members have been elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Elissa Newport, chair of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and George Eastman Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Joanna Scott, Roswell S. Burrows Professor of English, are among the 185 Fellows and 26 Foreign Honorary Members who will be inducted into the Academy in a ceremony this fall. They join 12 other Rochester faculty members who are also Fellows of the Academy.

Scholars and luminaries who were elected this year include actors and philanthropists Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, World Wide Web inventor Timothy Berners-Lee, Seagram Company Ltd. Chair Edgar Bronfman, Sr., and photographer Richard Avedon. Foreign Honorary Members include King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Judge Rosalyn Higgins of the International Court of Justice.

Newport studies the acquisition of language and the relationship between language acquisition and language structure. One line of her research has focused on understanding how children create rules for grammar from nothing more than hearing language spoken around them. Part of the research looks at what is known as creole languages, languages that a child learns even though the amount of language the child is exposed to is extremely limited. Newport is interested in understanding how these children are able to formulate complex rules of grammar when they have so little with which to work. Newport also looks into why children, who have a much more limited exposure to languages than adults, are able to acquire language much better than adults.

Newport joined the University in 1988 as a professor of psychology. She has twice been named a fellow of the Sloan Foundation, once at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and once at the University of Pennsylvania. She has received the Graduate Student Organization Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Advising from the University of Illinois, and the Claude Pepper Award of Excellence from the National Institutes of Health. She currently teaches courses on the development of mind and brain, as well as language and language acquisition.

Scott is the critically acclaimed author of five novels: Make Believe, which was published last year; The Manikin, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997; Arrogance, which received the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, the Lillian Fairchild Award, and a nomination for the PEN/Faulkner Award; The Closest Possible Union, and Fading, My Parmacheene Belle.

In addition, she has published a collection of short stories, Various Antidotes, which was also a PEN/Faulkner Award nominee. Scott's work has consistently earned critical acclaim. Nick Hornby in the New York Times Book Review said, "Joanna Scott is a Michael Jordan: she has talent to burn," and Peter Prescott wrote in the same publication, "We haven't heard a voice like (hers) since Ovid wrote his Metamorphoses."

Scott is the recipient of the prestigious Lannan Literary Award as well as of MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. She has been a full-time member of the University's faculty since 1988, teaching courses in creative writing, contemporary literature, and Charles Dickens. She has also taught at the University of Maryland, Princeton University, and Brown University.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 and has numbered among its members George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill. The current membership of 3,600 Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members features more than 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners. New Fellows are nominated and elected by Academy members in five categories: mathematics and physics, biological sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts, and public affairs and business. More information about the Academy is available at the website at