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ASU Regents Professor elected to American Philosophical Society


B. L. Turner II, Regents Professor in Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

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April 29, 2021

B. L. Turner II, Regents Professor in Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, was elected to the prestigious American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743.

The American Philosophical Society has played an important role in American cultural and intellectual life for more than 270 years and continues its mission of "promoting useful knowledge" through research, fellowships and public outreach.

The society honors leading scholars, scientists and professionals through elected membership and opportunities for interdisciplinary intellectual fellowship, particularly in its semiannual meetings. The society also supports research and discovery through grants and fellowships, lectures, publications, prizes, exhibitions and public education. It promotes a forum for a free exchange of ideas with the belief that intellectual inquiry and critical thought are “inherently in the best interest of the public.”

“I have long known of the society and am aware of Benjamin Franklin as its founder. My election comes as quite a surprise, and I am honored by it,” Turner said. 

Turner, a geographer engaged in human-environment science and member of ASU faculty since 2008, addresses problems situated at the intersection of society and the biophysical world. His research tackles problems ranging from prehistory to contemporary sustainability.

Turner helped to establish how the ancient Maya peoples transformed their homelands to sustain a large and affluent population, including a range of intensive agricultural practices, for millennia. Additionally, through fieldwork with his students across the tropics, Turner helped to enlarge and apply the concept of induced intensification to understand changes among subsistence and semi-subsistence farmers, foremost in the tropical world. Also, Turner assisted in the development of land system science, addressing land-use and-cover change as a human-environmental system. 

The current membership of the American Philosophical Society consists of approximately 1,000 members across a range of disciplines. Less than 6,000 members have been elected since the society’s inception. 

Among the society’s earliest members were George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton; other members have included Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, James Audubon and Albert Einstein. Since 1900, more than 260 members have received the Nobel Prize.

“I have been fortunate in my professional career to have had several outstanding mentors, intellectually exciting colleagues and outstanding doctoral students,” Turner said. “This academic 'family' has been and remains pivotal to my career.”

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