National Institute on Aging

It Appears There Are No Blacks Among the 84 New Members of the National Academy of Sciences

The National Academy of Sciences recently announced the selection of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates. There are now 2,382 living members of the nation’s most prestigious society of scientific scholars.

The National Academy of Sciences does not publish data on the race or ethnicity of its members. But according to a JBHE analysis of the group of 84 new members from the United States, it appears that none are African Americans.

A year ago, Karen E. Nelson, a professor of human genomic medicine and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, was the only Black scholar among the 84 new members that year. Dr. Nelson is a native of Jamaica. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

In 2016, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford University in California, was the only African American elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Eberhardt is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

In 2015, two African Americans were among the 84 new members. Scott V. Edwards is a professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University. A native of Hawaii, Professor Edwards is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University. He earned a Ph.D. in zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. Jennifer A. Richeson, now a professor of psychology at Yale University, held the  John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair in psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois at the time of her appointment to the academy. Dr. Richeson is a graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University.

In 2014, Emery N. Brown, the Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering and Computational Neuroscience at MIT and the Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, was the only African American among the 84 new members. Professor Brown earned bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees, all from Harvard University. He is also a graduate of Harvard Medical School.

So over the past five years, 420 scholars have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. It appears that only five or 1.2 percent have been African Americans.

Comments (1)

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  1. Jheri says:

    Karen E. Nelson shouldn’t be counted amongst the others.
    African Americans are folks that belong to an ethnic group of Americans and refers to descendants of enslaved black people who are from the United States.
    Karen E. Nelson was born, raised and educated in Jamaica. She is Afro-Caribbean/Afro-West Indian/Afro-Jamaican but NOT African American.

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