June 11, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 18

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    Honorary degrees to cosmologist, sociologist

    Honorary degrees will be awarded at convocation to two distinguished scholars, cosmologist J. Anthony Tyson and sociologist Harrison Colyar White. The degrees will be presented at the second session of convocation, at 3 p.m. Friday, June 12, in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

    Tyson, whose scholarship in observational cosmology has illuminated how the universe evolved, will receive the Doctor of Science degree. Tyson is a research scientist at Lucent Technologies/Bell Laboratories, where he has been a member since 1969 and a Distinguished Member of the technical staff since 1985.

    Research teams around the world using the largest optical telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope depend on techniques Tyson developed and compare their results to his earlier benchmarks.

    Tyson helped achieve one of astrophysics' main goals, namely the description of how large structures were assembled, by measuring galaxies and clusters so distant we see them in a much younger evolutionary state. A leader in the field of faint-galaxy research, he pioneered the technique of probing small patches of the sky to great distances, acquiring and analyzing far more extensive data than previously had been collected.

    Tyson received his Ph.D. in 1967 from the University of Wisconsin.

    White, an eminent sociologist whose work reaches into art history, anthropology, economics and linguistics, will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He is the Giddings Professor and chair of sociology at Columbia.

    White's principal contribution to scholarship has been a redefinition of the expression "social structure." Through his work, the term has grown from a loose concept into a set of practical tools for analysis. As a result, the study of social structure has set forth a new vision of social theory.

    In his first book, Anatomy of Kinship, White used group theory to simplify the possible structures of kinship into a set of limited types. He showed it is possible to classify clan systems and that there is a greater variety of these systems than anthropologists previously thought. His book Canvases and Careers examined the market for French impressionist paintings to show the influence of networked social structure on behavior. In Chains of Opportunity, White looked at the importance vacancies play in labor markets. He continued his work on social networks to create models that draw on work in physics, culminating in his major theoretical book, Identity and Control (1992).

    White has been a faculty member at Columbia since 1988. He received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1955 from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. in sociology in 1960 from Princeton.