University of Rochester

Political Scientist Appointed to Wilson Professorship

December 16, 1999

A preeminent scholar of comparative political science, G. Bingham Powell, Jr. has been appointed the Marie Curran Wilson and Joseph Chamberlain Wilson Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester.

In his almost 30 years in the Department of Political Science at Rochester, Powell has built and sustained the department's national reputation in comparative politics. His empirical research that draws general scientific inferences about underlying political processes across nations has attracted awards and grants. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1983-84, has regularly received National Science Foundation support, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991. From 1992 to 1995, he edited the leading scholarly journal in political science, the American Political Science Review.

All told, Powell is the author or co-author of numerous articles and three books, the latest of which investigates in what ways elections connect the preferences of citizens and the actions of policy makers. Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions, to be published by Yale University Press in spring 2000, examines elections in 20 democracies over the last 25 years. In it, Powell analyzes how electoral and constitutional arrangements shape the roles that competitive elections can play in giving citizens influence over policy makers.

His 1982 book, Contemporary Democracies: Participation, Stability and Violence, was judged by the American Political Science Association as that year's best U.S. book on government, politics or international affairs. He also co-edited the many editions of Comparative Politics Today, the best-selling introductory textbook.

Powell also is known for his dedication as a mentor and teacher and received the University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching this year. His students teach political science at many leading universities, including Columbia, Yale, and Heidelberg. He also served as chair of the Rochester political science department from 1986 to 1989.

A graduate of Princeton University, Powell received his master's and doctoral degrees in political science at Stanford University. Besides Rochester, he has taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California at Berkeley.

Marie and Joseph Wilson have endowed professorships in many fields at Rochester. This one was held previously by the late William H. Riker, who developed "positive political theory" and brought it into the mainstream of political science.