West-Eberhard elected to the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei

08/10/05

West-Eberhard elected to the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei

Galileo Gallilei's and the oldest academy of science in the world. In 1603, four young men put their names to a document about the pursuit of science, and in so doing brought into being the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Galileo Galilei added his great name and fame to the Accademia in 1611, and the number of members increased steadily with the addition of foreign and Italian men of science, poets, lawyers, and philologists until in 1625 the number of fellows reached 32. Currently, the aim of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei is to promote, coordinate, integrate and spread scientific knowledge in its highest expression, in the unity and universality of culture.

A newly elected foreign member, Mary Jane West-Eberhard, biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) joins the oldest academy of science in the world, and the most important cultural and scientific society of Italy. The Academy is divided into two Classes: Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences and Moral, Historical and Philological Sciences. Each of the two Classes comprises 90 national members, 90 corresponding members and 90 foreign members, 27 of them in the biological sciences.

West-Eberhard, whose primary research is on the behavior and evolution of social wasps, is the author of the book Developmental plasticity and evolution, published by Oxford University Press in 2003, and recipient of the R. R. Hawkins Award of the American Association of Publishers for the "Outstanding Professional, Reference or Scholarly Work of 2003." One reviewer called the book "an intellectual blitzkrieg" whose "scope and scholarship are truly awe inspiring."

Soon after the publication of Developmental plasticity and evolution, the American Society of Naturalists presented West-Eberhard with the 2003 Sewall Wright Award, sometimes called "the ultimate recognition for an established evolutionary biologist" created in 1991 in honor of evolutionary biologist Sewall Wright.

West-Eberhard is also member of the Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Costa Rica, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As a member of the U.S. National Academy, West-Eberhard serves on the Committee on Human Rights, and is active in promoting the careers of young scientists, particularly those doing work in Latin America. Among her many and important contributions to science are also publications in Spanish, Italian and French.

"Being an Italophile from way back, for some of the most important early work on social wasps was done by the Italian zoologist Leo Pardi, this recognition is especially meaningful to me" said West Eberhard.

STRI director Ira Rubinoff commented that "Mary Jane is a worthy recipient of this award and it is an excellent example of the outstanding scholarship conducted at STRI. We are very proud of her accomplishments".

Source: Eurekalert & others

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