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Horvitz Joins American Academy of Arts and Sciences

October 18, 2011 | By Microsoft blog editor

Posted by Rob Knies


In 1780, the nascent United States of America was still in the midst of the Revolutionary War. American pride suffused the former colonies’ scholar-patriots, and one result was the founding of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Among the cofounders was John Adams, then a historian and political theorist who, 16 years later, became the second president of the United States. Adams’ role in helping to create the academy certainly didn’t escape the attention of Eric Horvitz, Microsoft distinguished scientist and deputy managing director of Microsoft Research Redmond, who, in Cambridge, Mass., on Oct. 1, was inducted as one of the 179 of the nation’s most influential artists, scientists, scholars, authors, and institutional leaders in the academy’s 231st class of members.

Eric Horvitz signs American Academy Book of Members

“I was delighted to be invited to join a society that was cofounded by John Adams, someone I’ve long admired,” said Horvitz, pictured above signing his name into the academy’s Book of Members, a tradition that began in 1780. “Just a few years after the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and several other founders of the United States created the society in recognition of the importance of nurturing and celebrating the arts and sciences in an open and vibrant society.”

The American Academy remains one of the nation’s oldest, most prestigious learned societies, an independent research center that draws from its members’ expertise to conduct studies in science and technology policy, global security, the humanities and culture, social policy, and education.

“I particularly resonate with the mission of the Academy,” Horvitz said, citing the academy’s aim “‘to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.’

“It’s quite a humbling experience to scan through the list of distinguished scientists and artists who have been fellow members over more than two centuries.”

Since its founding, the American Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates, 100 Pulitzer Prize winners, and many of the world’s most celebrated artists and performers.

“Induction recognizes extraordinary individual achievement,” explained Leslie C. Berlowitz, president of the American Academy, “and marks a commitment on the part of new members to provide fundamental, non-partisan knowledge for addressing today’s complex challenges.”

That’s an opportunity that Horvitz relishes.

“In my research, I often draw upon ideas from numerous disciplines, extending well beyond my core focus in the computing and decision sciences,” he explains. “I’ve found discussions with fellow members of this diverse group of thinkers and creators nourishing for the mind and heart.”

Congratulations, Eric!