Three University of Chicago faculty named Members of the National Academy of Sciences

Three University of Chicago faculty named Members of the National Academy of Sciences

May 7, 2001

Three members of the University of Chicago faculty, Frank Morris Richter, Edwin W. Taylor and Robert Manuel Wald, were elected Members of the National Academy of Sciences on May 1, 2001.

The National Academy of Sciences was created in 1863 by an act of Congress signed by Abraham Lincoln to act as an official adviser to the federal government in any matter of science or technology. Membership in the Academy is one of the highest honors afforded a U.S. scientist.

Frank Richter, the Sewell Avery Distinguished Service Professor in Geophysical Sciences, has done pioneering work using fluid dynamics to understand the driving mechanism of plate tectonics, the theory that the Earth's surface is covered by a small number of plates in relative motion over a deformable interior.

Richter worked from the view that the dynamics of plate motions is probably a variant of normal thermal convection, where motion is driven by the sinking of cold, dense material and the rising of warm, light material. He also has worked on a variety of geochemical topics, including the chemical evolution of seawater, melt segregation and chemical diffusion in molten rock systems, and radioactive age dating techniques.

Richter was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993. He received the Bowen Award of the American Geophysical Union in 1995 for contributions to geochemistry, and the Wollard Award of the Geological Society of America in 1999 for contributions to geology using geophysics.

Edwin Taylor is the Louis Block Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Taylor's election recognizes seminal contributions to the biochemistry of muscle contraction carried out during his tenure at the University of Chicago. Widely acknowledged as the "father of cytoskeletal research," his early work, once considered surprising and controversial, has since entered the canon of cell biology. His work has provided the major paradigm for understanding the chemical events of muscle contraction. Taylor and his laboratory's pioneering investigations using biochemical, biophysical and cell biological approaches provided key evidence for the functions of contractile proteins in non-muscle cells, led to the discovery of the protein subunit of microtubules, and provided the first rigorous kinetic model describing how molecular motors convert chemical energy into mechanical force.

"Taylor's contributions go beyond research," said Anthony Mahowald, chairman and Louis Block Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago. "Many who trained with Taylor remain leaders in their fields, carrying forward his rigorous approach to cell biology."

In 1999 Taylor moved to a half-time position at the University of Chicago and currently shares time in the laboratory of Gary Borisy in Northwestern University's Department of Cell and Molecular Biology. Taylor was recently the recipient of the E.B. Wilson Medal, the highest honor awarded by the American Society for Cell Biology. He is also a member of the Royal Society of London and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Robert Wald, Professor in Physics and the Enrico Fermi Institute, has focused his research on general relativity and the theory of quantum (subatomic) phenomena in strong gravitational fields, particularly quantum effects involving black holes and black hole thermodynamics.

He is the author of the standard graduate text in relativity, General Relativity, published in 1984. He also is the author of Space, Time and Gravity (1977, second edition 1992) and Quantum Field Theory in Curved Spacetime and Black Hole Thermodynamics (1994), an advanced monograph for specialists in the field. He organized a landmark scientific meeting in 1996, "The Symposium on Black Holes and Relativistic Stars."

Wald was a fellow of the Alfred Sloan Foundation in 1976. He received the University of Chicago's Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching in 1997, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.