Left to right: Sam Bowles, Mercedes Pascual, Daniel Schrag

SFI Professor Sam Bowles and Science Board co-chairs Mercedes Pascual and Daniel Schrag have been elected as members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAA&S), the Academy announced on April 17. Founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin and others, the Academy honors exceptionally accomplished individuals for their work advancing the public good in spheres from arts, science, and education to democracy and global affairs.

They join more than 200 other new members elected to this 239th class, which also includes former First Lady Michelle L.R. Obama, author Jonathan Franzen, paleoclimatologist Lonnie G. Thompson, and chemical and biological engineer Kristi S. Anseth.

Bowles, an economist, heads the Behavioral Sciences Program at SFI, which explores political hierarchies and the roots of wealth inequality. He has served as an economic advisor to Nelson Mandela, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders within the U.S. and around the world. He is the author of several books; his most recent, The Moral Economy: Why good laws are no substitute for good citizens, was published in 2016. With Wendy Carlin (University College London), External Professors Rajiv Sethi (Barnard), Chris Wood, Simon DeDeo (Carnegie Mellon) and other collaborators, he co-developed the Curriculum Open-access Resources for Economics (CORE) and a corresponding free economics textbook to help analyze big global challenges like inequality, environmental sustainability, and economic crises.

Pascual studies the temporal and spatio-temporal dynamics of ecological systems at various scales out of her lab at the University of Chicago. Her current research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, looking into how climate change and variability, increased urbanization, and changing dynamics between natural and built environments are impacting the spread of pathogens. She also investigates how pathogen populations diversify to escape the immune system, and how this diversity influences transmission dynamics including resilience to intervention. Her lab, “Modeling and Theory in Ecology and Epidemiology,” is exploring how best to model these systems, and at what scales, amid incomplete data and changing dynamics.

Schrag is based at Harvard University where he studies climate and climate change across Earth’s history. His research has melded insights from geochemistry, climatology, and microbiology; he helped develop the Snowball Earth hypothesis — the idea that a series of extremes glaciations helped give rise to the emergence of multicellular organisms. He also explores how the geologic record can inform our predictions for anthropogenic climate change in the future, and researches political and technological interventions to climate change, such as carbon capture and low-carbon fuels. 

As new electees, Bowles, Pascual, and Schrag join a remarkable roster of current and past members including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Maria Mitchell, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Margaret Mead, Milton Friedman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. who, in the late 1960s, posed Bowles a question that would change the course of his career.

“He asked me, among a few others, for my help during his Poor People’s march,” Bowles explained in a 2016 story in Evonomics. King’s basic question, Why are some people poorer than others, propelled Bowles to see how the field of economics could answer important questions.

Read the announcement on the AAA&S website (April 17, 2019)

View the complete list of new members.