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Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

IU's Hofstadter among elite group named 2009 Academy of Arts and Sciences fellows

April 21, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Pulitzer Prize winning author and Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science Douglas Hofstadter has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Douglas Hofstadter

Indiana University distinguished professor Douglas Hofstadter, author of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid," has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Election to the Cambridge, Mass.-based academy recognizes the importance of an individual's contributions to an academic or professional field. This year's 210 new Fellows and 19 Foreign Honorary Members include co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology Mario Capecchi, mathematician and Fields Medal winner Terence Tao, actors Dustin Hoffman and James Earl Jones, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (an IU alumnus), 1993 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela and U2 lead singer and humanitarian advocate Bono. The Academy announced the winners Monday (April 20).

Bennett I. Bertenthal, dean of IU's College of Arts and Sciences, described Hofstadter as one of the nation's great thinkers whose work has influenced people around the world.

"Douglas Hofstadter is a remarkable example of a truly multidisciplinary scholar," Bertenthal said. "His groundbreaking work on consciousness, language and creativity transcends academic categories, and has not only inspired the research of generations of students but has also sparked the imaginations of millions of readers around the world. The College of Arts and Sciences wishes to congratulate Dr. Hofstadter on his award, and commends the American Academy for honoring one of our country's most extraordinary intellects."

Hofstadter's first book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award, and shortly thereafter he received a Guggenheim Fellowship (1980-81). He also wrote a monthly column called "Metamagical Themas" for Scientific American in the years 1981-1983. These days Hofstadter directs IU's Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition, where he and his graduate students explore the elusive fluidity of human cognition by experimenting with computational models.

Although Hofstadter's Ph.D. was in physics (University of Oregon, 1975), his current explorations, creations, and writings reach out in many diverse directions, and include such things as the form-preserving translation of poetry and prose, the study of analogy's key role in human thought, the nature of imagery and creative thinking in mathematics and physics, and the mystery of artistic style, especially in the design of alphabets.

His ninth book, I Am a Strange Loop, an attempt to describe how consciousness arises, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Science and Technology in 2008. His most recent book, just out this week, is actually a pair of books bound together back-to-back. On one side is a translation of French novelist Françoise Sagan's novel La Chamade (the title of his English version is "That Mad Ache", with "mad ache" being an anagram of "chamade"), and on the other side is a lively and provocative essay on the paradoxes of translation, entitled Translator, Trader.

The Academy, established in 1780 by founders of the nation, undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Current projects focus on science, technology and global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education. The Academy's 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.

"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."

"These remarkable men and women have made singular contributions to their fields and to the world," said Academy President Emilio Bizzi. "By electing them as members, the Academy honors them and their work, and they, in turn, honor us."

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 10, at the Academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Since its founding by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the Academy has elected as members the finest minds and most influential leaders 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.

For more information, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896, or