American Academy of Arts and Sciences Elects Caltech’s John Grotzinger

Published : Sunday, April 21, 2019 | 4:51 AM

John P. Grotzinger

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest honorary societies, has elected Caltech’s John P. Grotzinger to its newest class of fellows.

This year’s class, the 239th in the academy’s history, includes more than 200 scholars and leaders representing such diverse fields as academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts. They will join an academy whose members have included Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Grotzinger is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology and Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. His career at Caltech has spanned two decades and included serving as project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission. His own research is focused on biogeological studies, and he has generated major contributions to the current understanding of the early environmental history of Mars, in particular on the past presence of water on the planet’s surface.

He joins the 105 members of the Caltech community, living and deceased, who have been inducted into the academy, including Ken Farley, W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of Geochemistry; Hiroo Kanamori, John E. and Hazel S. Smits Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus; and Edward Stolper, William E. Leonhard Professor of Geology. Also included in this year’s list are four alumni: Eugene Chiang (PhD ’00), Jose I. Cabezon (BS ’78), Patricia A. Thiel (PhD ’81), and Jeff D. Gelles (PhD ’86).

“John has led his generation’s efforts to understand the tectonic, environmental, and biological drivers of sedimentary processes through Earth history,” says Stolper. “And he is, in my opinion, the leading field-based geologist in the world today. To be with him in the field is an amazing experience because he is such a keen observer and has both the experience and the intuition to interpret his observations in terms of process in real time. He is also the undisputed leader of efforts to characterize the geology of sedimentary rocks on Mars, producing the first stratigraphic section measured on another planet and leading the exploration of Mars’s sedimentary and environmental history using the Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity. It is a great pleasure for his friends and colleagues to see his extraordinary contributions continue to be recognized and honored.”

Founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots, the academy aims to serve the nation by promoting “every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

A full list of new members is available on the academy website at The new class will be inducted at a ceremony in October in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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