SMU Anthropology Chair David Meltzer has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his achievements in original scientific research. Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States.
Meltzer, the Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and director of QUEST Archaeological Research Program, will be the 3rd SMU professor to be inducted into the NAS. All of them have come from the University’s anthropology department: emeritus faculty members Lewis Binford and Fred Wendorf were elected in 2001 and 1987 respectively.
Only an Academy member may submit formal nominations to the NAS, and supporting nomination materials and candidate lists remain confidential.
Meltzer was elected April 28 along with 71 other scientists, joining more than 2,000 active NAS members. More than 180 living Academy members have won Nobel Prizes. NAS members have included Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell.
“It’s really an honor to be in that wonderful company,” Meltzer said shortly after being notified of his selection by phone. “I am thrilled, excited, shocked, humbled – it’s a great day.” He said he was particularly touched that the NAS members who voted him in then passed a cell phone around to offer their individual congratulations.
“David Meltzer serves as the model of a professor whose research contributes to his discipline and our understanding of civilization, and who uses that knowledge to enliven his classroom,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His election to the NAS brings much-deserved recognition to Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and honor to SMU.”
“One of the hallmarks of top universities is the election of their faculty to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences,” said Paul Ludden, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “SMU is so proud of its top-tier anthropology faculty member, David Meltzer, for his election today.”
Meltzer’s work centers on the origins, antiquity, and adaptations of the first Americans – Paleoindians – who colonized the North American continent at the end of the Ice Age. He focuses on how these hunter-gatherers met the challenges of moving across and adapting to the vast, ecologically diverse landscape of Late Glacial North America during a time of significant climate change.
Meltzer’s archaeology and history research has been supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, The Potts and Sibley Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution. In 1996, he received a research endowment from Joseph and Ruth Cramer to establish the QUEST Archaeological Research Program at SMU, which will support in perpetuity research on the earliest occupants of North America.