Paul Smolensky, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in the Department of Cognitive
Science at Johns
Hopkins, has been appointed to an International Blaise
Pascal Research Chair by the École Normale
Supérieure, a prestigious French institution of higher
The first cognitive scientist to receive this honor
since the program's inception in 1996,
Smolensky was one of five recipients in areas ranging from
the sciences and social sciences to the
Smolensky will spend a year in Paris conducting
research and consulting with colleagues in a
diverse set of fields ranging from neurosciences to
psycholinguistics to the philosophy of science. His
project, titled "Formal Foundations of Abstraction in
Linguistic Cognitive Science," involves building
formal mathematical characterizations of the abstractions
central to the theory of language within
"As far as my reaction to the news that I was
appointed to this chair, I was shocked; it felt like
winning the French lottery," Smolensky said.
Barbara Landau, the Dick and Lydia Todd Professor and
chair of Cognitive Science, said that
Smolensky richly deserves the honor.
"Our department has long recognized how very special
Dr. Smolensky is," she said. "His vision
and energy have shaped our department over the years, and
his contributions to cognitive science have
elevated our field. We are gratified that the international
community has recognized these
contributions by naming him to the Chaire Blaise Pascal."
Smolensky will be on sabbatical from Johns Hopkins for
the 2008-2009 academic year.
He earned his bachelor's degree in physics from
Harvard University in 1976, his master's degree
in physics at Indiana University in 1977 and his doctorate
in mathematical physics at Indiana in 1981.
The chair is named for Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century
French mathematician, physicist and
religious philosopher who made important contributions to
the construction of mechanical calculators,
the study of fluids and the concepts of pressure and