Pitt’s Jeffrey Schwartz Elected President Of World Academy of Art and Science

Issue Date: 
March 12, 2007

Jeffrey Schwartz, Pitt professor of anthropology and history and philosophy of science and a fellow in the University’s Center for Philosophy of Science, has been elected president of the World Academy of Art and Science.

Schwartz is the first person to be elected president of the World Academy. In the past, the academy’s trustees have appointed the president.

A fellow of the World Academy since 2005, Schwartz will serve a one-year term as president-elect, followed by a four-year term as president.

The World Academy is a nonofficial network of approximately 500 fellows from diverse cultures, nationalities, and intellectual disciplines, chosen for eminence in the arts, the natural and social sciences, and the humanities. Its activities focus on the social consequences and policy implications of knowledge and the challenges confronting people in a rapidly changing global civilization. It has in several instances chosen to concentrate on such issues as biotechnology and genetic resources well ahead of general public recognition of their importance.

Originator of the orangutan theory of human origins, Schwartz first revealed his orangutan hypothesis in a 1984 issue of the journal Nature. His book The Red Ape: Orangutans and Human Origins (Westview Press, 2005), first published in 1987, provides evidence for his theory. In it, Schwartz analyzes many fossil discoveries and incorporates new plates and drawings in support of his belief that Asian orangutans are our closest nonhuman cousins.

Schwartz and colleague Ian Tattersall, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, embarked on a major undertaking a little more than a decade ago when they began the study of the human fossil record. With Wiley and Sons, they have published a three-volume compendium that includes descriptions, photographic images, diagrams, and drawings of virtually the entire human fossil record. Human Fossil Record, Volume 1 (John Wiley and Sons, 2002) won the 2002 Professional Scholarly Publishing Award in the category of Single Reference Sciences. In addition, Schwartz wrote Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species (Wiley, 2000). He has spent more than 20 years contemplating the methods, theories, and philosophy of taking data and trying to interpret it for purposes of reconstructing evolutionary relationships.

Schwartz, who forensically reconstructed three life-size images of George Washington that are on display at Mt. Vernon, also is a fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science.