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April 22, 2009
Contact: Donald Worster, Department of History, (785) 864-9474.

KU professor elected to prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences

LAWRENCE — Donald Worster, the Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Professor of U.S. History at the University of Kansas, has been named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies.

Worster joins Mario Capecchi, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology; 19 foreign honorary members, including former South African President Nelson Mandela; and Academy Award, MacArthur Fellowship, Tony Award and National Medal of the Arts recipients in the 2009 class.

Worster is a nationally renowned historian and the author of several books, including “A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir,” “A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell,” “Rivers of Empire,” “Dust Bowl” and “Nature’s Economy.” “A River Running West” won the Byron Caldwell Smith Award, and “Dust Bowl” won a Bancroft Prize. Three of his books have been nominated for Pulitzer Prizes.

Worster, a KU faculty member since 1989, said he is honored to be selected by the academy.

“The University of Kansas and the state of Kansas as a whole have been very good to me and given me an excellent academic home where my work could thrive,” Worster said. “I am grateful to the academy for electing me, but even more I’m grateful to KU for its steadfast support.”

A native of Kansas, Worster earned a bachelor’s in 1963 and a master’s in 1964, both from KU. He earned his doctorate in American history and literature at Yale University in 1971. A noted pioneer in the field of environmental history, he has been president of the American Society for Environmental History and has served as editor of the Cambridge University monograph series “Studies in Environment and History.”

“Since 1780, the academy has served the public good by convening leading thinkers and doers from diverse perspectives to provide practical policy solutions to the pressing issues of the day,” said Leslie Berlowitz, chief executive officer and William T. Golden chair. “I look forward to welcoming into the academy these new members to help continue that tradition.”

Worster and his fellow inductees will be honored at a ceremony Oct. 10 at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Founded by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other founding fathers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected some of the world’s most influential leaders and thinkers, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. It is a center for public policy research and undertakes studies in complex and emerging problems. Current interdisciplinary research by the society is taking place in science, technology and global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education.

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