Alley, Meszaros named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 19, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- Two Penn State faculty members are among the 229 leaders in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector who have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Richard B. Alley, Evan Pugh professor of geosciences, and Péter Mészáros, director of the Center for Particle Astrophysics and Eberly chair of astronomy and astrophysics, and professor of physics, are included in the 2010 class.

The new Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members were announced Monday (April 19), and the Penn State scientists join one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies. A center for independent policy research, the Academy celebrates in 2010 the 230th anniversary of its founding. Established in 1780 by John Adams and other founders of the nation, the Academy undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Its membership of scholars and practitioners from many disciplines and professions gives it a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary, long-term policy research. Current projects focus on science and technology; global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education.

Alley is one of the world's leading climate researchers and also works with the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. He is one of several earth scientists from Penn State who contributed to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with Al Gore. His current research focuses on glaciology, ice sheet stability and paleoclimates from ice cores. He has based his work on a meticulous study of ice cores from Greenland and West Antarctica. Alley's work has been lauded for contributing to the understanding of climate science not only through superlative research, but also through his ability to inform nonscientists.

Throughout the past decade Mészáros has been the world's most cited scientist in the field of gamma ray burst astronomy. He is known for his seminal work in developing, with Martin Rees of Cambridge University, the model that explained gamma-ray bursts as titanic cosmic explosions. Mészáros, who won the American Astronomical Society's Rossi Prize in High Energy Astrophysics in 2000, is extensively involved with NASA's Swift satellite, whose Mission Operations Center is run by Penn State. The Swift satellite was launched in 2004 and has detected hundreds of gamma-ray bursts, resulting in a breathtaking number of discoveries about our universe.

The scholars, scientists, jurists, writers, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders include winners of the Nobel, Pulitzer and Shaw Prizes; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellows; and Grammy, Tony and Oscar Award winners. The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 9, at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

A complete list of the 2010 class of new members is located at

Since its founding by Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010