Vincent Scully, Sterling Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Yale University, is one of the country's leading architectural historians and critics. A scholar whose work covers both ancient and modern architecture, Professor Scully is a leading commentator on the changing design of urban areas and its effect on the populace. A popular teacher, Professor Scully's courses have drawn as many as 900 undergraduates in a year. He has twice been selected by Time Magazine for their survey of "Ten Outstanding American College Teachers". His courses include lectures and seminars for architects and graduate students as well as undergraduates on topics such as modern architecture, theories of architecture, ancient and mediaeval architecture, pre-Columbian architecture, and classic French gardens.
Professor Scully is a native of New Haven, Connecticut. He was born on August 21, 1920, the son of Vincent and Mary McCormick Scully. His father was President of the New Haven Board of Aldermen for many years. He entered Yale from New Haven's Hillhouse High School in 1936 on a scholarship, and was only 15 at the time. Majoring in English, he was on the varsity fencing team for three years and played intramural football. Upon graduation in 1940, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, rising from lieutenant to major and serving in the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters during World War II.
After the war, he returned to Yale as a graduate student and received his Master of Arts degree in 1947 and his Ph.D. degree in 1949. He was appointed to the Yale faculty as an Assistant in Instruction in 1947, and by 1961 was given a full professorship. In 1966, he became first incumbent of the Colonel John Trumbull chair. From 1969 to 1975, he served as Master of Morse College - one of Yale's twelve undergraduate residential colleges. In 1983 he was appointed Sterling Professor of the History of Art. He was retired in 1991 but still teaches one of his lecture courses at Yale every fall and, as Distinguished Visiting Professor, at the University of Miami in the spring. During the spring term of 1995 he was the Mellon Visiting Professor of History at the California Institute of Technology, and during that of 1998 he was the Louis I. Kahn Professor at the American Academy in Rome. He is a former member of the Board of Trustees of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
His book, Pueblo: Mountain, Village, Dance (1975), reflects his concern with the interaction of man, architecture, and the natural setting. His earlier book, The Earth, the Temple, and the Gods (1962) explores the same themes. Professor Scully is the author of numerous other books: The Architectural Heritage of Newport, R.I. (1952), which won the annual book award of the Society of Architectural Historians; The Shingle Style (1955), which won the annual book award of the College Art Association; Frank Lloyd Wright (1960); Modern Architecture: the Architecture of Democracy (1961); Louis I. Kahn (1962); Architectura Actual (1967); American Architecture and Urbanism (1969); The Shingle Style Today, or The Historian's Revenge (1974). He has studied French gardens and fortifications of the seventeenth century, analyzing the shape and symbols of classic France. This formed part of his Architecture: The Natural and the Manmade (1991), a general overview of the relation of human structures to the natural world from prehistory to the present. He has written about the architecture and urbanism of Miami and most recently co-authored a book about the architecture of Yale and New Haven with art historian Catherine Lynn and his former students Paul Goldberger and Erik Vogt. A book of Scully's essays, selected by the art historian (and former student) Neil Levine was published by Princeton University Press in 2003.
Scully has been widely honored throughout his career, but particularly in recent years. In 1997 Yale University established a chaired professorship in his name. The National Building Museum in Washington created the Vincent Scully Prize in 1999 "to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the built environment through scholarship, research, writing or professional practice," and bestowed the first award in his name to Scully himself. In 2003 the Vincent J. Scully Jr. Visiting Professorship in Architectural History at Yale was established and the same year he received the Urban Land Institute J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionary Urban Development. At a White House ceremony on November 17, 2004, Scully received a National Medal of Arts, the United States' highest honor for artists and arts patrons.
The National Building Museum provides biographies of speakers, program participants, and exhibition subjects. Learn more about our programs and lectures.