Since its founding in 1780, the academy has elected what it calls “leading thinkers and doers” 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 of over 4,000 includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.
Alumni Paul Theroux and Natasha Trethewey are among six writers just elected to the literature section of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Theroux, a novelist and travel writer, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1963 and was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 1988. He is the author of, among other things, “The Mosquito Coast,” “The Old Patagonian Express,” “The Great Railway Bazaar” and, most recently, “The Last Train to Zona Verde.”
Trethewey won the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry “Native Guard,” and was named the 19th poet laureate of the United States in 2012 – serving simultaneously as the poet laureate of Mississippi. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry in 1995. She is currently the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University.
Also named this year are Martin Amis, Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard and Jeffrey Eugenides. Named as foreign honorary members are Julian Barnes, Emma Donoghue and Athol Fugard.
This list of other notables on this year’s roster of newly elected academy fellows in the humanities and the arts category includes Robert De Niro, Herbie Hancock, Albert Maysles, Renee Fleming, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen – as well as, in the public affairs and journalism category, John Glenn, Richard Lugar and Roz Chast.
The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 12 at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge.