Four York professors elected to the Royal Society of Canada

The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has elected four York University professors into its ranks.

Professor Sheila Embleton, a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Language, Literatures & Linguistics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS); Kent McNeil, a Distinguished Research Professor in Osgoode Hall Law School; the late Barbara Godard, a professor of English and cultural studies in LA&PS; and Professor John Tsotsos, a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, have all been inducted into the society as Fellows.

The society elected 75 new Fellows, two Specialty Fellows and three Foreign Fellows to its ranks for 2010. The newly elected Fellows will be officially inducted on Saturday, Nov. 27 during a ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

“I was thrilled to learn that four York University professors were inducted into the Royal Society of Canada as Fellow for their academic excellence and outstanding contributions to Canadian intellectual culture,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “This is an incredible achievement given that election to the society is the highest honour that can be attained by scholars, artists and scientists in Canada.”

Sheila Embleton (right) is an expert in mathematical methods in historical linguistics and dialectology. She is also the former vice-president academic and provost of York University. Embleton’s interests are historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, dialectology, mathematical linguistics, onomastics, and women and language. Her areas of language specialization include English, German, Romance, Slavic and Finno-Ugric. Her 1986 book on family tree reconstruction still anchors the field. She is the associate editor of Diachronica and The Journal of Quantitative Linguistics, review editor of Word and the Journal of Finnish Studies, and member of the editorial board of Onomastica Canadiana and for the book series Amsterdam Classics in Linguistics, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, and Edinburgh Historical Linguistics monograph series. Her current research is mostly on dialectometry (statistical methods applied to dialect study), with particular application to British, Finnish and Romanian dialects.

Barbara Godard (left) had long been internationally recognized as one of the most important researchers, translators and critics of Canadian literature. Sadly, Godard passed away during the electoral process. She will be inducted posthumously as a Fellow during the November ceremony. Godard played a key role in shaping the study of Canadian literature by publishing groundbreaking theoretical research, introducing new fields of research, producing innovative translations and devoting her career to writing for both Quebec and English-speaking Canada. She began teaching at the University in 1971. In 2002 she was honoured with two prestigious teaching awards from York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools. Godard served as editor or on the editorial board of 22 journals. She was a founding co-editor of the feminist literary periodical Tessera , a contributing editor of Open Letter and The Semiotic Review of Books and the book review editor for Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. She also made long-standing contributions to Resources for Feminist Research, Voix et Images and ECW (Essays in Canadian Writing) among others.

Kent McNeil (right) teaches property law, first nations and the law and trusts. He has been a faculty member at Osgoode Hall Law School since 1987 and was formerly the research director of the University of Saskatchewan Native Law Centre. In 2006 he was awarded a prestigious Killam Fellowship to pursue research on the legality of European assertions of sovereignty in North America. McNeil’s primary research interest is the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly in Canada, Australia, and the United States. He has written a book, Common Law Aboriginal Title, and numerous monographs and articles on this subject, some of which are collected in Emerging Justice? Essays on Indigenous Rights in Canada and Australia. Aspects of his work include land and treaty rights and self-government. He has acted as consultant and expert witness on these matters, most recently in relation to a land claim by Mayan people in Belize.

As Canada Research Chair in Computational Vision, John Tsotsos (left) is investigating new ways to model human mechanisms of visual motion in machines. His research investigates how the human brain processes what the eyes see, and how to use that knowledge to develop innovative robotic systems that can see and understand the visual world when performing complex tasks. One of his major achievements is defining the selective tuning theory of vision. It has inspired new discoveries regarding the function of the human visual system as well as a new autonomous, intelligent wheelchair for the physically challenged. Tsotsos is a leader in his field, having built world-class vision groups and networks. He leads major scientific activities internationally in both computer and human vision science.

Embleton, Godard, McNeil and Tsotsos, while coming from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, were nominated to the society by their colleagues for their dedication to excellence in their particular fields of endeavour. According to the society, they, along with the other inductees, enhance Canada’s competitiveness on a global basis.

For more information on the 2010 Fellows, visit the Royal Society of Canada website.