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Classmates awarded Academy's highest honor

Robert Darnton (left) and George Whitesides (right)

Fuess Award to be presented to Robert Darnton ’57 and George Whitesides ’57

January 18, 2013 —John Palfrey, Phillips Academy head of school, has announced that chemist George Whitesides and cultural historian Robert Darnton have been selected as recipients of the Claude Moore Fuess Award. The awards will be presented at a special student and faculty gathering on January 30th, in Cochran Chapel.

Named in honor of Phillips Academy’s 10th headmaster, the award acknowledges distinguished contribution to public service.

Although the two honorees share much in common, they are being recognized individually for different achievements. Whitesides and Darnton are both members of Andover’s Class of 1957 and Harvard’s Class of 1960, and both men are Harvard University Professors, two of only 21 University Professorships at the institution.

Harvard’s Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Whitesides is believed to be the most highly cited chemist in the world. He has been called a pioneer in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology, and his work in the areas of “NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, soft lithography, microfabrication and microfluidics” – according to a recent press release – has had far ranging impact. He is cofounder and director of the university’s Whitesides Research Group, a 6,000 square-foot laboratory with a team of graduate and postdoctoral students, whose primary objective is to “fundamentally change the paradigms of science.”

Whitesides’s work deconstructing unnecessary complexities within the functions of technology, and his desire to simplify processes toward a science driven not by capitalism, but by “the needs of the people,” has had profound impact in the area of global public health. In 2007, he founded the nonprofit “Diagnostics for All,” (DFA) with the “commitment to saving lives and alleviating disease in developing countries and other resource-poor settings through low-cost, innovative, practical diagnostic devices,” according to the group’s website. DFA’s first major field test, a low-cost and highly portable test for liver damage, stands to vastly improve the quality of life for individuals in developing countries who have HIV and tuberculosis.

After earning a B.A. degree from Harvard, the Louisville, Ky, native went on to the California Institute of Technology, where he earned a Ph.D. He has published more than 950 scientific articles, has been listed as inventor on more than 50 patents, and has cofounded 12 companies, including Genzyme and Nano-Terra.

Among his many awards, Whitesides is the recipient of the National Medal of Science (1999), the Kyoto Prize in Materials Science and Engineering (2003), the Welch Award (2005), the Priestly Medal (2007) and the Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences (2009).

Darnton is Harvard’s Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and the director of the Harvard University Library. The cultural historian is recognized internationally as a leading scholar of French Enlightenment and as the pioneer of the field known as the history of the book. His groundbreaking work examining the intellectual and non-intellectual literary world of 18th century France has provided not only new interpretations of the French Revolution, but part of the seminal dialogue between the disciplines of history and anthropology.

As a leading expert in the history of the book, and as head librarian of the world’s largest academic library, Darnton is one of the founding proponents for a national public library of digitized books. Believing that “providing access to knowledge is absolutely essential to the whole nature of our civilization,” Darnton is one of the movement’s most vocal advocates, helping organize a partnership of cultural institutions (including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and the National Archives) and foundations (including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) behind the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The DPLA — which will include digitized collections of the country’s “great research institutions,” as well as the Internet Archive and other media collections of still and moving images and sound — is set to launch this April.

Darnton is the author and editor of two dozen books, including “The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie” (1979), “The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History” (1984), “Berlin Journal, 1989-1990”, “The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary War France” (1995), and “The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future” (2012).

After earning a B.A. degree from Harvard in 1960, Darnton studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar earning a B.Phil degree in 1962 and a D.Phil degree in 1964. He taught at Princeton from 1968 to 2007 before joining the Harvard faculty. Among his many awards, Darnton has received a MacArthur Fellowship (1982-1987), the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1988), the National Book Critics Circle Award (1996), and the National Medal of Humanities (2011). He serves as a trustee of the New York Public Library and the Oxford University Press (USA).

While on campus to receive the Fuess Award, Darnton and Whitesides will meet with students and faculty, and each will teach a master class.

First awarded in 1967, the Claude Moore Fuess Award has honored decades of alumni for distinguished efforts and achievements in public service. Previous recipients include: The Reverend William Sloane Coffin ’42, social activist; Harlan Cleveland ’34, U.S. Ambassador to NATO; Robert Conover Macauley ’41, founder of AmeriCares; and Sarah P. Chayes '80, former journalist and current advocate for social change in Afghanistan. Most recently, in 2009, Bill Drayton ’61, founder of the Ashoka Foundation: Innovators for the Public, was honored for fostering social entrepreneurship worldwide.


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  • Amy Morris, Public Information Specialist
  • 978-749-4293
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