Nine Women Among 60 Scientists Elected To NAS

Equality advocates, while heartened by the relatively high number of females honored, stress the need for further progress. The election of nine women to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) this year is being greeted with tempered enthusiasm on the part of the scientific community. While scientists are pleased that the academy has chosen the highest number of women ever in its 131-year history, they recognize that this year's w

Jun 13, 1994
Neeraja Sankaran
Equality advocates, while heartened by the relatively high number of females honored, stress the need for further progress.

The election of nine women to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) this year is being greeted with tempered enthusiasm on the part of the scientific community. While scientists are pleased that the academy has chosen the highest number of women ever in its 131-year history, they recognize that this year's women still represent only 15 percent of the 60 members selected, and that the overall representation of women in NAS is still only 5 percent (85 out of a total active membership of 1,710 scientists).

"There are more women this year than ever before, which is welcome," says Peter Raven, NAS home secretary and the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. "But the increase has been very, very gradual and still nowhere near where we would like it to be."

  • Eric G. Adelberger, professor, nuclear physics laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Sankar Adhya, chief, developmental genetics section, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.
  • Frederick W. Alt, professor of genetics and pediatrics, and investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • Frederick M. Ausubel, professor of genetics, Harvard Medical School, and molecular biologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Mary Ellen Avery, Thomas Morgan Rotch Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
  • May R. Berenbaum, professor and head, entomology department, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Spencer J. Bloch, professor of mathematics, University of Chicago
  • Henry R. Bourne, professor of pharmacology and medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • William S. Bowers, professor of entomology and chemical ecology, University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Marvin H. Caruthers, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Donald L.D. Caspar, professor of physics and research professor of structural biology, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.
  • Leroy L. Chang, dean of science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Arnold L. Demain, professor of industrial microbiology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  • Stanley Deser, Ancell Professor of Physics, Brandeis University
  • Gerald D. Fasman, Rosenfield Professor of Biochemistry, Brandeis University
  • Alfred G. Fischer, professor of geology, emeritus, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • John H. Flavell, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, department of psychology, Stanford University, Calif.
  • Marye Anne Fox, Waggoner Regent's Chair in Chemistry, and director, Center for Fast Kinetics Research, University of Texas, Austin
  • Michael Freeling, professor of genetics and director, National Science Foundation Center for Plant Developmental Biology, University of California, Berkeley
  • David V. Goeddel, vice president of research (molecular biology), Tularik Inc., South San Francisco, Calif.
  • Eville Gorham, Regents' Professor (ecology), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • John P. Hirth, professor of mechanical and materials engineering, Washington State University, Pullman
  • James R. Holton, professor of meteorology, University of Washington
  • David E. Housman, professor of biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and associate in neurology and genetics, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Roger Howe, professor of mathematics, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
  • Rudolf E. Kalman, Graduate Research Professor, Emeritus (electrical engineering), University of Florida, Gainesville; and Ad Personam Chair, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
  • Charles D. Keeling, professor of oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.
  • Sung-Hou Kim, professor of chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
  • Judith P. Klinman, professor of chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
  • Herwig Kogelnik, director, Photonics Research Laboratory, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, N.J.
  • Robert B. Laughlin, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, department of physics, Stanford University
  • Anthony P. Mahowald, professor and chairman of molecular genetics and cell biology, University of Chicago
  • Andrew J. Majda, professor of mathematics, Princeton University, N.J.
  • Pamela A. Matson, professor of environmental science, policy, and management, University of California, Berkeley
  • Thomas J. Meyer, Kenan Professor of Chemistry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Albert I. Meyers, University Distinguished Professor (chemistry), Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  • David R. Nelson, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Eugene W. Nester, chairman of microbiology, University of Washington
  • Roger A. Nicoll, professor of pharmacology and physiology, University of California, San Francisco
  • Maynard V. Olson, professor of molecular biotechnology, University of Washington
  • Donald W. Pfaff, professor of neurobiology and behavior, Rockefeller University, New York City
  • William H. Press, professor of astronomy and physics, Harvard University
  • Julius Rebek, Jr., Camille Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Matilda W. Riley, senior social scientist, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
  • Michael G. Rosenfeld, professor, School of Medicine; and investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Diego
  • John M. Rowell, vice president and chief technical officer (physics), Conductus Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.
  • Jeremy A. Sabloff, University Professor of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh
  • Myriam Sarachik, professor of physics, City College of New York
  • Lucille Shapiro, Joseph D. Grant Professor and chairwoman of the developmental biology department, Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Burton H. Singer, Ira Vaughan Hiscock Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine
  • Steven M. Stanley, professor of geology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
  • Edward M. Stolper, William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
  • Stanley J. Tambiah, professor of anthropology and curator of Southeast Asian ethnology, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University
  • Thomas N. Taylor, professor of botany, professor of geology and mineralogy, and research scientist, Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, Columbus
  • George Veronis, professor of geophysics and applied science, Henry Barnard Davis Professor of Physics, and director, applied mathematics program, Yale University
  • Ellen S. Vitetta, professor of microbiology and director, Cancer Immunobiology Center, University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, Dallas
  • Eric F. Wieschaus, professor of biology, Princeton University
  • Oliver E. Williamson, professor of business, economics, and law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Robert B. Wilson, Atholl McBean Professor of Economics, Stanford University
  • Henry T. Wright, professor of anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • "It's a movement in the right direction, but still not approaching parity," says Penelope Kegel-Flom, a professor of psychology and optometry at the University of Houston and the president of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), headquartered in Washington, D.C., which boasts a membership of 5,000.

    "The numbers [of women] are still much too low, considering the relatively large increase in the women who are making significant contributions to science," says Vera Rubin, a staff scientist in astronomy at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Rubin, an NAS member since 1981, is also on the board of AWIS.

    "It's amazing," says new member Pamela Matson, referring to the fact that nine elected women represented a landmark achievement at NAS. "I'm happy that the National Academy is paying more attention to women now." Matson is a professor of environmental science and policy management at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Congratulated by a fellow entomologist on breaking two of the three norms of the "too male, too pale, and too stale" demographics of NAS, another new member, May Berenbaum, says, "I still have a hard time believing I got elected. I'm not sure what I did, but I'm glad I did whatever it was that made them choose me." The 40-year-old head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, does research addressing insect-plant interactions and their impact on the environment. In addition, she is interested in conservation of biodiversity.

    Established in 1863, NAS, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a private organization of scientists and engineers for promoting science. The academy also acts as an official adviser to the federal government on matters of science and technology.

    Each year since 1977, the academy has chosen 60 United States scientists in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievement in science. In addition, 15 nonvoting foreign associates are elected. Any current active member can nominate a candidate, who is then voted on by members of the section pertaining to his or her field. Final acceptance is determined by a general election of NAS.

    Both Raven and Nina Fedoroff, a plant molecular biologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Baltimore who serves on the governing council of NAS, feel that there is "a certain amount of historical inertia" in the academy as a result of its self-perpetuating electoral process.

    Rubin agrees; "Any time an organization elects new members, it attempts to reproduce itself," she says. While the academy is still "very male-dominated," Rubin says, there is a definite change in attitudes toward women scientists' issues. For example, she says, "Women's History Month was celebrated in the academy for the first time this year."

    The nine women among this year's NAS selections represent a wide mix of specialized fields (see accompanying list), including hard sciences like physics (for example, Myriam Sarachik, a professor of physics at the City College of New York) as well the social sciences (Matilda Riley, senior social scientist at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md.). Their interests, in many cases, extend beyond research in their disciplines to issues of concern for the entire scientific community.

    Mary Ellen Avery, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, expects to "find plenty to do" as a new member. A member of the Institute of Medicine (IoM)--an affiliate of NAS that deals with medicine and health-policy issues--she served on the IoM Committee on Health and Human Rights and plans to continue her involvement in human rights issues at NAS. Avery also hopes to be involved in some of the academy's international affairs programs that deal with children.

    Stanford University's Lucille Shapiro is interested in making the public more scientifically literate. Shapiro, chairwoman of the department of developmental biology at Stanford's School of Medicine, is also concerned about issues of basic research support.

    "Allocating funds for targeted and nontargeted research needs to be thought about very carefully and dealt with logically--not emotionally," she says. "We need a multiple menu, because unless there is a reasonable amount of curiosity-driven, nontargeted research going on, targeted programs will also suffer."

    While lauding all the new members' scientific excellence, current members also stress the limitations imposed on academy membership due to its size. "The people who are elected are certainly among the very best in the U.S.," says home secretary Raven, "but an important thing to remember is that for every one chosen there are many more equally distinguished individuals who weren't--there are anywhere from 2 million or more qualified scientists in the country-- and the choices are thus bound to be somewhat arbitrary."