Hames named to National Academy of Sciences

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Hames named to National Academy of Sciences
Anthropologist is fourth Husker to earn honor

Ray Hames, professor of anthropology, is the fourth Nebraska faculty to earn membership in the National Academy of Sciences. He is one of 120 U.S.-based researchers to earn the distinction this year. Current active membership — which includes Nebraska’s James Van Etten — is 2,403 U.S. researchers. That total includes around 100 anthropologists.
File photo | University Communication
Ray Hames, professor of anthropology, is the fourth Nebraska faculty to earn membership in the National Academy of Sciences. He is one of 120 U.S.-based researchers to earn the distinction this year. Current active membership — which includes Nebraska’s James Van Etten — is 2,403 U.S. researchers. That total includes around 100 anthropologists.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the only institution in the Cornhusker State with faculty to have earned the distinction, has expanded its membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

Raymond Hames, professor of anthropology, is the fourth Husker to earn the nationally-prominent honor and first since 2003. He is also Nebraska’s first faculty outside of the field of plant pathology to join the academy.

Membership in the National Academy of Sciences is one of the highest distinctions for a scientist or engineer in the United States. It recognizes distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

“For more than 40 years, Raymond has served as a leading anthropological scholar — both in the classroom here in Lincoln and through his research on indigenous peoples in South America,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “This is a well-deserved honor that showcases the incredible talent we have in our faculty and the positive momentum of this great university.”

Hames is an international authority on the lives of indigenous peoples of the Venezuelan Amazon — primarily the Yanomamö and Ye’kwana. Both groups live in relative isolation from national authorities while independently conducting inter-tribal political relations.

Before international politics blocked access in 1999, Hames spent nearly 35 months living within and studying the indigenous tribes firsthand.

Membership in the National Academy of Sciences is earned only through nominations made by current members. Nominees do not know that they are being considered for inclusion. Each nominee is thoroughly vetted and voted upon during a final ballot at the academy’s annual meeting.

Hames learned of his selection via an April 27 text message from Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, a famed anthropologist and primatologist. He then logged into a virtual meeting and received congratulations from some of the nearly 100 anthropologists who are currently academy members.

“This is kind of a wonderful cherry on top of my career,” Hames said. “It came as a real surprise as I have a fairly eclectic research profile. But it means a lot. It’s nice to know you are thought of so highly by a group of tremendous scientists.”

In the vast majority of his anthropological research, Hames has focused on behavioral ecology; food and labor exchange; human ecology; marriage; kinship; and parental investment.

Hames’ most recent National Science Foundation-funded study seeks to create a demographic and genealogical database online for social scientists seeking to test theories on kinship, demographic processes and marriage. The study also aims to test human evolutionary theories on how marital variations and kin support impact wellbeing, marital and social success of children. Hames conducted the study with the University of Missouri’s Napoleon Chagnon, who is recently deceased.

Hames remains an active teacher on campus, leading courses on social organization, contentious issues in anthropology, warfare and introductory cultural anthropology.

He is among 120 domestic and 26 international members announced April 27 as the academy’s class of 2020.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s three other National Academy of Sciences members were honored for research in plant, soil and microbial sciences. Those members and year of induction are: James Van Etten, professor of plant pathology, in 2003; J.M. Daly in 1984; and Myron Brakke in 1974. Nebraska's Brian Larkins, emeritus associate vice chancellor and plant pathologist, is also a member of the academy. However, he earned the honor in 1996 while at the University of Arizona.