Stanford scholars elected to American Philosophical Society

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Richard White (Photo courtesy of the Stanford Department of History)

RICHARD WHITE has been elected to the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States.

The American Philosophical Society, founded by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge,” has played an important role in American cultural and intellectual life since its establishment in 1743. Neurobiologist ERIC KNUDSEN, the Edward C. and Amy H. Sewell Professor in the School of Medicine, Emeritus, also was among the 33 scholars worldwide elected to the society this year.

White, the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford, specializes in the history of the American West, environmental history and Native American history. He also focuses on the development of capitalism in the late 19th century, particularly through examining the construction of the transcontinental railroad. His research is detailed in his book Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, which was a finalist for a 2012 Pulitzer Prize. He served as president of the Organization of American Historians from 2006 to 2007.

White joined the Stanford faculty in 1998 after teaching at the University of Washington, the University of Utah and Michigan State University. He earned his doctoral and master’s degrees from the University of Washington. White was a MacArthur Fellow (1995-2000), and his acclaimed book The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. His research on environmental history has changed historians’ understanding of how to account for change over time, and how to relate environmental change to the weakening of Native American cultures.

He was faculty co-director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West from 2002 to 2012. In 2006, he won the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award in the Humanities and used the accompanying funding to found the Spatial History Project, now part of the Stanford Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA). This interdisciplinary lab supports scholars using digital tools and methods to advance research in the humanities and related fields in novel ways.