University of Rochester

Cultural Historian, Optics Expert Win Guggenheim Awards

April 15, 1997

Joan Shelley Rubin, a University of Rochester historian, and David Williams, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences as well as optics, have won Guggenheim Fellowships for 1997- 98.

Rubin, a professor in the history department, studies American culture with a focus on literary production and reading practices. Her well-received 1992 book, The Making of Middlebrow Culture, explored the creation of book clubs, "great books" programs and other avenues that forever popularized the humanities in the first half of the century. Now Rubin is co-editing the last in a five-volume series, A History of the Book in America, that takes a look at print culture in the century's second half. She also studies how poetry reading and memorization strengthen family bonds and provide comfort in a quasi-religious way. To further probe this transmission of ideas and values in American society, Rubin will take a year■s leave in 1997-98 to write a book on poetry's public dimension and the practices of American readers from the mid-19th century to the present.

Williams, who is director of the University's Center for Visual Science, is an expert on the visual system of humans and other animals. He studies how our eyes gather images and transmit them to the brain. His research focuses on the retina, the screen inside the eye that converts light into electrical impulses. His group has taken the sharpest photographs yet of the human retina, allowing us to see for the first time in the living eye the individual cells called cones -- the photoreceptors that allow us to detect color and see clearly in bright light. Williams will use his Guggenheim to study the circuitry in the retina that is responsible for color vision.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, based in New York City, provides fellowships for advanced professionals in the natural and social sciences, humanities, and creative arts.

Editors: Rubin lives in Brighton, and Williams lives in Fairport.