University of Rochester

Two University Scientists Named Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

April 21, 2009

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences has elected two scientists from the University of Rochester as fellows. Richard S. Eisenberg, the Tracy H. Harris Professor of Chemistry, and H. Allen Orr, the Shirley Cox Kearns Chair of Biology and University Professor, will be inducted into the academy with 208 other new fellows from 28 states and 11 countries at the academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., on October 10.

Established in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other founders of the nation, the Academy of Arts & Sciences is designed to facilitate studies of complex and emerging problems. Current projects focus on science, technology, global security, social policy, the humanities, and education.

Eisenberg is being honored for his contributions to the fields of inorganic and organometallic chemistry, and as a researcher, teacher, leader, and mentor. He has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards throughout his career, including a Sloan Fellowship (1972-'74) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1977-'78). More recently, he has been honored with the 2003 ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, the 2007 Morley Medal presented by the Cleveland ACS Section, and was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005.

Eisenberg has served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Inorganic Chemistry since 2001, the premier and most cited journal in its field. He began teaching at Rochester in 1973, was named professor of chemistry in 1976, and served as chair of the department from 1991 to 1994. In 1996 he was honored with the Tracy H. Harris Professorship.

Eisenberg's research focuses on light to chemical energy conversion in artificial photosynthesis and on the study of new catalysts for both organic and inorganic reactions. A distinctive attribute of Eisenberg's chemistry research lies in the integration of synthesis, spectroscopy, structural characterization, reaction chemistry, kinetics and mechanistic analysis for new compounds and reaction systems in the advancement of science and technology, most recently in the area of converting solar energy into non-carbon fuels.

Orr is being recognized for his research into how genes cause reproductive isolation between species, what the normal functions of these genes are, and what evolutionary forces drive parent species to bifurcate into two incompatible species. His innovative combination of studies on the biology of Drosophila and theoretical work proved the "dominance theory" of Haldane's Rule—a hypothesis that had been controversial since it was proposed in 1922.

Orr was recently awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal on the 200th birthday of Charles Robert Darwin. Twelve other awardees, including such evolutionary giants as the late Professor Stephen Jay Gould, also received the award, which is given only once every 50 years. He has also received several fellowships, including a Guggenheim, a Packard Foundation Fellowship in Science and Engineering, and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. He is also the winner of the Dobzhansky Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution. In 2002, he was named the University of Rochester's Professor of the Year in Natural Sciences.

Orr co-authored the book Speciation (Sinauer Associates, Inc., May 2004, with Jerry A. Coyne), a scholarly review and critique of research on the origin of species. He is also a frequent contributor of book reviews and critical essays to such publications as The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.

Since its founding, the Academy of Arts & Sciences has elected some of the most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.