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Illinois scholar elected fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences

James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — James Economy, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Election to the American Academy is an honor that acknowledges the best of all scholarly fields and professions. Among the academy’s 186 other new fellows are journalist Walter Cronkite, novelist Michael Cunningham, recording industry pioneer Ray Dolby, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Donald Glaser, philanthropist William H. Gates Sr., and artist Cindy Sherman. They will be inducted in early October at ceremonies at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

"Jim is a highly respected leader in materials research and engineering on our campus," said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of the Urbana campus and also a member of the academy. "It is absolutely appropriate that the academy recognizes his contributions in both scholarship and leadership."

Economy has played a major role during the past 40 years in the design and development of a number of polymer systems, including liquid crystalline materials for structural uses, novel thermosetting resins that can be recycled, and activated fibers for filtering environmental contaminants. He led the effort to create the National Science Foundation Center on Advanced Materials for Water Purification at the Urbana campus.

Among his awards are the P.J. Flory Award in Polymer Science (2000) from the POLYCHAR World Forum; and the Herman F. Mark Polymer Chemistry Award (1998) and the Phillips Medal for Applied Polymer Science (1985), both from the American Chemical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Polymer Materials Science and Engineering division of the ACS.

Economy earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1950 from Wayne State University in Detroit, and his doctorate in chemistry in 1954 from the University of Maryland at College Park. He joined the Illinois faculty in 1989 as head of the materials science and engineering department, a position he held until 2000.

The American Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people."

The academy has more than 3,950 fellows and 575 foreign honorary members, which includes more than 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners. The academy focuses its research on international security, social policy, education and the humanities. A full list of new fellows is available on the Internet at