New Title To Honor Tribe, Whitesides

University President Lawrence H. Summers announced yesterday that Harvard Law School (HLS) Professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 and Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Professor George M. Whitesides ’60 will each receive the prestigious title of University Professor, a distinction held by only 17 faculty members.

The title of University Professor was created in 1935 to honor individuals whose groundbreaking work crosses the boundaries of multiple disciplines, allowing them to pursue research at any of Harvard’s schools.

Tribe, who is presently the Ralph S. Tyler Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at HLS, will become the Carl M. Loeb University Professor—a title held by the late Archibald Cox ’34 until 1984—and Whitesides, Mallinckrodt professor of chemistry, will be the first Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor.

Tribe, who has served on the HLS faculty since 1968, has written over 100 books and articles on constitutional law and has helped draft new constitutions for South Africa, Russia, the Czech Republic and the Marshall Islands.

“Larry Tribe is one of the great constitutional law scholars and practitioners of our time, and few law professors have had a comparable impact on the shaping of American law,” Summers said in a press release yesterday.

Tribe was the lead author of Harvard’s friend-of-the-court brief in the landmark 2003 affirmative action case involving admissions practices at the University of Michigan. He also wrote the American Civil Liberties Union’s friend-of-the-court brief in Lawrence v. Texas, a Supreme Court case that ultimately ruled anti-sodomy laws in the U.S. to be unconstitutional.

Whitesides, who taught at MIT prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 1982, is one of the pioneers of the emerging field of nanotechnology. He won the National Medal of Science in 1998, and was awarded the distinguished Kyoto Prize last year for his work in the field of advanced technology.

“George Whitesides is a scientist of extraordinary imagination and scope, and his long record of crossdisciplinary innovation, most recently in nanotechnology, exemplifies the excitement and promise of modern science,” Summers said.

Whitesides also served as the chair of Harvard’s chemistry department from 1986 to 1989 and then as associate dean of FAS until 1992.

Whitesides attributed much of his success to the students working in his experimental laboratory.

“An important point to recognize is that I run an experimental research group, but in an experimental group it is very hard to distinguish what I do and what the very talented students do,” Whitesides said. “We are obviously very collectively pleased.”

Tribe could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Summers praised the two professors not only for their accomplishments, but their teaching ability as well.

“Both these outstanding faculty members have brought honor to Harvard through their scholarship and teaching, and both very much deserve the University’s highest professorial distinction,” Summers said.

Both appointments officially begin on July 1.

—Staff writer Evan M. Vittor can be reached at evittor@fas.harvard.edu.