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George Washington and Ben Franklin did it. So did Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59). Now Leonid Levin has done it: earned entrée into one of the country’s leading honorary societies for “thinkers and doers.”
The American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS) has announced that the College of Arts & Sciences computer science professor, who studies admittedly arcane topics such as holographic proofs, aperiodic tilings, randomness, and nondeterminism, is one of 204 fellows chosen for its 2014 Class.
Election to a group that has culled the country’s crème since 1790 startled Levin. “When I got the call, it took me a while to understand what this is about,” he says, adding, “I will have to learn more about this membership” and its privileges and obligations.
Nomination for membership comes from current members. Membership entitles fellows to attend AAAS meetings and makes them “responsible for supporting the Academy with both the intellectual and financial resources necessary to advance its work,” according to the group’s bylaws. The AAAS is a research center that convenes leaders from many fields to address public problems.
Among Levin’s fellow initiates this year are actor Al Pacino, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, authors Annie Proulx and John Irving, historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore, a former CAS professor, and businesswoman Sherry Lansing.
Levin, who attended a boarding school devoted to physics and math in his hometown of Moscow, won an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research award in 2010.
Perhaps the most lay-friendly information on Levin’s website are a few lines from Pushkin: “To God obedient, O Muse,/Demand no wreath, fear no abuse./Remain to praise and slander cool,/And do not argue with a fool.” (“I doubt they have seen my web page,” he says of the AAAS, “though many of them probably read Pushkin by themselves.”)
Among the several AAAS members from BU are President Robert A. Brown; President Emeritus Aram Chobanian (Hon.’06); William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professors James Collins, Nancy Kopell, and Laurence Kotlikoff; Kathryn Bard, a CAS archaeology professor; Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow, Arthur G. B. Metcalf Professor of Mathematics and Science; Jeffrey Henderson, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Greek Language and Literature; Ha Jin, a CAS professor of creative writing; Robert Pinsky, a CAS professor of English; and Paula Fredriksen, a CAS professor emerita.
Levin, along with this year’s other nominees, will be inducted during an October ceremony at the Cambridge, Mass.–based academy, which boasts 4,600 fellows in the United States and 600 foreign honorary members. More than 250 Nobel laureates and 60-plus Pulitzer winners are among that circle.