Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley was among a prestigious group of new members inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on October 6 at Harvard University. Although the Academy elected more than 200 new fellows and foreign honorary members in recognition of their superior scholarship, artistic triumph, and exemplary service to society, Edley was one of only six new inductees to speak at the ceremony.
The Academy is an independent policy research center with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and regional centers at UC Irvine and the University of Chicago. Founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots, its membership features more than 170 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners. The Academy has inducted some of history’s most prominent figures, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill. This year’s list includes Edley, former Vice President Al Gore, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, and filmmaker Spike Lee.
At the induction ceremony, Edley spoke about the future of the civil rights movement, asserting that spirituality should play a role in defining and achieving racial justice: “Science alone cannot revitalize the antidiscrimination paradigm in law or politics…. [T]he [civil rights] movement must augment its secular, technocratic strategies with a recommitment to the discourse of values, and even to the tactics of spiritual engagement.”
New fellows and foreign honorary members of the Academy are nominated and elected by current members and are divided into five broad classes: mathematics and physical sciences; biological sciences; social sciences; humanities and the arts; and public affairs, business, and administration. In addition to Edley, other speakers at the induction ceremony were Princeton University molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler, MIT robotics professor and co-founder of iRobot Corporation Rodney Brooks, opera singer Jessye Norman, architect Billie Tsien, and mathematician and University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer.