MU Hires Three Prominent Scientists Boosting Anthropology and Economics Expertise on Campus
Brock, a graduate of MU, has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1998.
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Story posted: Feb. 14, 2013
By: Christian Basi
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The University of Missouri is one of 34 public universities in the Association of American Universities (AAU) and is recognized for its national expertise in many academic fields. MU’s nationally prominent faculty scholars and scientists bring their expertise and discoveries into the classroom while publishing more than 1,500 books and scholarly articles each year and attracting multi-million dollar grants. Recently, Mizzou officials hired three prominent scientists, each a member of his country’s national academy of sciences. The new hires – Napoleon Chagnon and Martin Daly in the Department of Anthropology, and William “Buz” Brock in the Department of Economics – were made possible by funds from Mizzou Advantage, the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence and the College of Arts and Science.
“The quality of MU’s faculty is reaching new levels, and that is translating into attracting even more top scientists to our campus,” MU Provost Brian Foster said. “In the past three years, three of our faculty have been elected to either the National Academy of Sciences or the Institute of Medicine. Just recently, we’ve added three faculty members to our ranks who are members of either the U.S. National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society of Canada. Through these new faculty, our students will be exposed to some of the world’s greatest minds. It’s very exciting and inspiring to see what our faculty have achieved as well as to have attracted such great minds to campus. These are the people who make the world move.”
Mizzou Advantage is a program that focuses on four areas of MU strength: food for the future; media of the future; one health, one medicine; and sustainable energy. The goals of Mizzou Advantage are to strengthen existing faculty networks, create new networks and propel Mizzou’s research, instruction and other activities to the next level. The Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Program, which receives funds from the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence and Mizzou Advantage, was instrumental in bringing one of the new faculty members to campus.
“The purpose of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Program is to increase the number of recognized distinguished scholars from around the globe who come to this campus and interact with faculty and students,” said Richard Wallace, chancellor emeritus and director of the program. “We’ve been hopeful from the outset that if we brought some of these people to campus they would eventually stay for long periods of time. These faculty continue to interact with others in prominent societies – such as the National Academy of Sciences – and can help and support us in the context of applications for federal funding and membership in national academies.”
“These scholars are helping us elevate our academic expertise ,” said Michael J. O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science. “With the addition of Chagnon and Daly, the Department of Anthropology is becoming a powerhouse for the study of evolution; Buz Brock is already working with faculty here at MU, assisting them with their research projects. Brock’s work is a ‘lynchpin’ for many scientists and we’re lucky to have him with us at MU.”
“MU anthropology rose to become one of the top programs in the world, thanks in part to the excellent stewardship of Dean O’Brien, Provost Foster and Chancellor Deaton,” said Mark Flinn, chair-elect of MU’s Department of Anthropology. “The investment of MU into anthropology has delivered an excellent return for the entire university because of the strong inter-disciplinary academic culture here. Students and faculty in all departments now stand to benefit from the unparalleled level of expertise that Drs. Chagnon and Daly bring. Their research improves understanding of the physiological and cultural mechanisms that allow people to coexist peacefully.”
Below is information about each of these new faculty members:
Chagnon authored the best-seller, Yanomamö, about a hunter-gatherer tribe in South America. Chagnon will bring his decades of observations of the Yanomamö tribe to the University of Missouri’s Department of Anthropology. His data, much of it still unpublished, may shed light on the biological basis of human behavior and society.
“MU’s anthropology program lives up to the state’s ‘Show Me’ motto and demands evidence for assertions about human behavior,” Chagnon said. “MU is poised to be a top school in robust, hard-data centered anthropology. I’m excited to join a university that is becoming a hotbed of evolutionary cultural anthropology.”
Chagnon spent decades among the Yanomamö tribe of Venezuela and Brazil at a time before the indigenous group had been influenced by the outside world. In his book, he describes how he used direct observations to challenge idealized beliefs about one of the last yet-warring slash-and-burn cultivators and put forth controversial ideas about motivations for human behavior.
“My fieldwork was a race against time,” Chagnon said. “I knew that the tribes wouldn’t be isolated for much longer, and that I wouldn’t have access to them forever. So, I focused on collecting data, more so than publishing papers. Now, my MU colleagues and I will work on analyzing that data and understanding what the Yanomamo tell us about humans in general.”
Chagnon was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2012. In 2010, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.
Daly’s research at MU will focus on the relationship between economic inequality and violence. His goal is to improve modeling of how inequitable access to resources and demographic changes affect crime rates, especially homicide.
“The University of Missouri’s anthropology department is one of the most consistently science-minded anthropology departments in the United States, and in my view, one of the best,” Daly said. “I was attracted here by Mark Flinn’s unusual combined expertise in cultural anthropology, behavioral endocrinology (the study of hormone systems), developmental psychology and evolutionary theory, and I’m very impressed with the younger faculty, too.”
Daly co-authored several books with his late wife Margo Wilson, including “The Truth About Cinderella: A Darwinian View of Parental Love, which explored the controversial topic of stepparent/children relationships. Daly has been a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 1998. In 2009, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.
William “Buz” Brock
William “Buz” Brock, is an economist and very applied mathematician best known for his application of stochastic dynamical systems theory to economics and is the newest member of the MU Department of Economics.
“I am a toolmaker for other researchers,” Brock said. “My mathematical models and statistical analysis are, hopefully, already helping other MU researchers to use the data they collect on such diverse topics as salamander ecology, the business cycle and linguistic anthropology.”
Brock has a long history with MU. He graduated with honors from the university in 1965 and his daughter is an assistant teaching professor of rural sociology at MU. His family still owns a farm near Fulton.
“As an undergrad, I spent many happy hours hanging out at the original ‘Shack,’” Brock said. “MU and Columbia have grown since then, but it is still a wonderful place. One positive change I’ve noticed is the increasing interest in sustainable agriculture in the area.”
Brock has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1998. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1987. He received his doctorate from the University of California – Berkeley in 1969.