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Bard College President Leon Botstein Elected to American Philosophical Society

Mark Primoff
Bard College President Leon Botstein Elected to American Philosophical Society  Image Credit: Steve J. Sherman
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, has been elected to the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States. Based in Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge.” Botstein is among 38 distinguished leaders and thinkers in mathematical and physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences, humanities, the arts, and public and private affairs to be elected this year. Members have included Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, Robert Frost, Saul Bellow, Philip Glass, and Yo-Yo Ma. Today the society has 1,001 elected members. All members are invited to attend the society’s semiannual meetings, which aim in the 21st century to express the universal spirit of the 18th century’s Age of Reason. Meetings include the presentation and discussion of papers on such topics as privacy and the Constitution, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, imaging the invisible universe, new tools for archaeological discovery, and the legacy of Franz Boas and its future in anthropology, academe, and human rights. The next meeting takes place in Philadelphia November 11–13, 2010.

Since 1975, Leon Botstein has been president of Bard College, where he is also Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities. He received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in European history from Harvard. He has been honored with the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, National Arts Club Gold Medal, Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences, Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, and Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Before coming to Bard, Botstein was president of Franconia College, a lecturer in history at Boston University, and special assistant to the president of the New York City Board of Education. He is a past chairman of the Harper’s Magazine Foundation and of the New York Council for the Humanities, and is currently chairman of the board of Central European University and a board member of the Open Society Institute.

President Botstein has been music director of the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO) since 1992. In 2003 he was appointed the music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra of the Israel Broadcast Authority. He conducts the ASO’s subscription concert series in New York City and has an active international career, making frequent guest appearances with major orchestras. His recording of the music of Popov and Shostakovich with the London Symphony Orchestra was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award. He is also coartistic director of the Bard Music Festival.

President Botstein is editor of The Musical Quarterly and The Compleat Brahms (1999), and co-editor of Jews and the City of Vienna, 1870–1938 (2004). He is author of Jefferson's Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture (1997) and Judentum und Modernität: Essays zur Rolle der Juden in der Deutschen und Österreichischen Kultur, 1848–1938 (1991), which was translated into Russian (2003). He has published widely on the subjects of music, education, history, and culture.


In the 21st century, the American Philosophical Society, sustains this mission in three principal ways. It honors and engages distinguished scientists, humanists, social scientists, and leaders in civic and cultural affairs through elected membership and opportunities for interdisciplinary, intellectual fellowship, particularly in the semiannual meetings in Philadelphia. It supports research and discovery through grants and fellowships, lectures, publications, prizes, exhibitions, and public education. It serves scholars through a research library of manuscripts and other collections internationally recognized for their enduring historic value. The American Philosophical Society’s current activities reflect the founder’s spirit of inquiry, provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and convey the conviction of its members that intellectual inquiry and critical thought are inherently in the public interest. Early members included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and John Marshall.  In the nineteenth century, John James Audubon, Robert Fulton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, and Louis Pasteur were among those elected. Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, and George Marshall hint at the scientific, humanistic, and public accomplishments of 20th-century members. The first woman was elected in 1789: the Russian Princess Dashkova, president of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg. Today the Society has 1001 elected members, 833 resident members and 168 international members from more than two dozen foreign countries. Since 1900, more than 240 members have received the Nobel Prize. For more information, contact Nora Monroe, director of membership and prizes, at or 215-440-3430, or visit

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This event was last updated on 06-24-2010