A UC Irvine scholar who uses mathematics to understand social and economic activity has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious society of scientists.
Donald G. Saari, Distinguished Professor of Economics and professor of mathematics, becomes UCI's 17th active academy member. The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to furthering science and its use for the general welfare. Established by Congress in 1863, the academy acts as an official adviser to the federal government in any matter of science or technology. Election to membership is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer.
"With his innovative research merging mathematics and the social sciences, Donald has deservedly earned election into this select group of America's finest scientists," said Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone, also an academy member. "He is a creative thinker who energizes colleagues and students alike with his enthusiasm and ideas, which contribute to UCI's overall academic and research excellence."
"I am delighted by this unbelievable honor," Saari said. "The research challenges offered by UCI already have made this an exciting year, and election to the academy has significantly increased this excitement."
Saari is recognized for his important contributions to the social sciences. His research employs mathematical models to analyze a wide variety of social and economic phenomena--politics, markets and intra-organizational behavior. Through his discoveries on how people vote, he has emerged as a leading critic of the American electoral process. His work in mathematical economics has revealed a new understanding of economic principles such as incentive, supply and demand. In addition, he has made significant advances in the field of celestial mechanics, which uses mathematical theory to explore the evolution of the universe.
Saari also has published three books on voting theory: "Geometry of Voting" (1994), "Basic Geometry of Voting" (1995) and "Chaotic Elections! A Mathematician Looks at Voting" (2001). Released in April, "Chaotic Elections!" shows that the fundamental problems with the 2000 presidential election were not with the courts, recounts or defective ballots, but were caused by a fundamentally inadequate voting procedure that does not necessarily reflect what voters want. His latest book, "Decisions and Elections: Explaining the Unexpected," will be published in June by Cambridge University Press.
Earning his doctorate in mathematics from Purdue University in 1967, Saari came to UCI in January 2000 from Northwestern University, where he was the Arthur and Gladys Pancoe Professor of Mathematics and professor of economics and applied mathematics and engineering science. At Northwestern, he received awards for outstanding teaching and served as the chair of mathematics for three years. He also is the editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society.
In addition to Saari, current UCI National Academy of Sciences members are: Francisco J. Ayala, Walter M. Fitch, James L. McGaugh and Ricardo Miledi from the School of Biological Sciences; Cicerone, Richard S. Hamilton, Larry E. Overman, Peter M. Rentzepis (jointly with The Henry Samueli School of Engineering) and F. Sherwood Rowland from the School of Physical Sciences; William H. Daughaday, Masayasu Nomura and Irwin A. Rose from the College of Medicine; and Duncan R. Luce, Kimball A. Romney, Brian Skyrms and George Sperling from the School of Social Sciences. Rowland also serves as the academy's foreign secretary.