May 24, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 17

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    Three faculty members receive Humboldt research awards

    By William Harms, Steve Koppes, and Sabrina L. Miller
    News Office

    The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany has honored three Chicago scholars this year—Kenneth Dam, Michael Geyer and Hisashi Yamamoto—with research grants. The foundation, which honors renowned scientists and scholars from abroad each year, bases the awards primarily on a scholar’s entire academic record. Awardees also are invited to conduct an original research project of their own design in close collaboration with a German colleague.

    Dam, the Max Pam Professor Emeritus and Senior Lecturer in the Law School, received the first-ever Reimar Lst Award for International Scholarly and Cultural Exchange from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation in Bonn, Germany, for outstanding achievement in academic research and service, building cultural and academic relationships with Germany.

    An expert in domestic and foreign economic law, Dam will spend time in Germany investigating and comparing the various conditions for economic reform within the United States and Germany.

    “I am quite honored to have received this award, and that my considerable research in economic law, particularly in international economic law, has been recognized,” said Dam, who is the former chairman of the German-American Academic Council.

    The foundation also lauded Dam’s leadership positions in government and academia, noting that he was one of the most influential figures in German-American academic relations. Dam served as deputy secretary in the Department of Treasury from 2001 to 2003, and in the Department of State from 1982 to 1985.

    Dam served as Provost of the University from 1980 to 1982, and he has been a visiting professor at the University of Freiburg in Germany.

    The author of five books, Dam’s latest work is The Law-Growth Nexus: The Rule of Law and Economic Development.

    Geyer, the Samuel N. Harper Professor in History and the College, and a leading expert on transnationalism and modern German history, has received a Humboldt Research Award.

    He will spend the next year studying in Berlin at the Zentrum fr Zeithistorische Foschung. “I hope to complete a book titled Catastrophic Nationalism: Defeat and Self-destruction in German History,” he said.

    For the project, he is studying a wide variety of archival records as well as artistic and literary sources, including pamphlets and films, related to World War I and World War II. Geyer will examine the periods of the close of the wars, from 1917 to 1923 and from 1942 to 1946, respectively, studying how and why nations end wars and why they continue to fight.

    “In particular,” said Geyer, “I hope to make sense of the decision in 1918 to end war without recourse to a last desperate battle and the reverse choice in the Second World War.” Why, he asks, was the Nazi regime able to pursue war to the point of self-destruction, even if the nation rejected the Nazi suicide strategy. “The death-toll of the last year of the war, when all was lost for Nazi Germany, was higher than for the entire preceding period between 1939 and mid-1944, with casualty rates never dropping below 300,000 and peaking at over 500,000 per month,” Geyer said.

    Geyer is co-author of Shattered Past: Reconstructing German Histories, a reflection on the nature of modern German history. His recent work has focused on the history of globalization, leading to the forthcoming book, The Global Condition in the Long 20th Century.

    Yamamoto, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry and the College, will collaborate with research groups in Berlin and Munich in June and September of 2008. “I am very much looking forward to having exciting collaborations for our research,” he said.

    Yamamoto will continue his ongoing research on Lewis and Bronsted acid catalysis chemistry. Both acids play important roles in triggering or driving chemical reactions in the synthesis of new organic molecules that are biologically important or that contain interesting physical properties. “We can now make relatively complex molecules using such a catalyst,” Yamamoto said.

    (Please see a recent story on Yamamoto’s research awards in the Thursday, May 10 Chronicle.)