Sterling professor

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A Sterling professorship is the highest academic rank at Yale University, awarded to a tenured faculty member considered one of the best in his or her field. Traditionally, there are only 27 at any one time, but there are currently 44.


The professorships are named for and funded by an approximately $10 million endowment left by John William Sterling of the Yale Class of 1864, name partner in the New York law firm Shearman & Sterling.

The first Sterling professor was the chemist John Johnson, who was awarded the rank in 1920.

Other past recipients include Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (law), Wilbur Lucius Cross (English), Jaroslav Pelikan (history), Nobel Prize winner James Tobin (economics), C. Vann Woodward (History), Alvan Feinstein (medicine and epidemiology), and John Farquhar Fulton (physiology).

Among the most famous current Sterling professors are Nobel Prize-winning biochemists Sidney Altman and Thomas Steitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller, legal scholar Bruce Ackerman, literary critic Harold Bloom, economist William Nordhaus, Judge Guido Calabresi, political scientist James C. Scott, political scientist Ian Shapiro, historian of China Jonathan Spence, medieval scholars R. Howard Bloch, Giuseppe Mazzotta, and María Rosa Menocal, historian of ancient Greece and presidential advisor Donald Kagan, and Head Start founder Edward Zigler. Current Sterling professors emeriti include political scientists Charles E. Lindblom, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Brion Davis, historian and former Yale President Howard Lamar and architectural historian Vincent Scully.

Yale recently awarded Sterling professorships to Harold W. Attridge, María Rosa Menocal, John C. Tully, Thomas D. Pollard, Dieter Söll, Akhil Amar, David Bromwich, David Louis Quint, Mary Miller, Joseph Roach, William L. Jorgensen and Harold Hongju Koh.

Current Sterling professors[edit]

There are 44 Sterling professors (non-emeritus) actively teaching at Yale. Some emeritus Sterling professors continue teaching after they retire.[1]


  1. ^ "The Sterling professors of Yale: evolution of a species", Yale Daily News, January 21, 2011.