Erich David Jarvis (1965 -)

Jarvis posing in lab
Erich David Jarvis, ca. 2015
Courtesy Duke University

Erich David Jarvis, a noted scientist and a professional dancer, was born on May 6, 1965, in Harlem, New York, to musicians James Reginald Jarvis and Sasha Valerie McCall. They parented four children. A product of public education and exceptional in math and science, Jarvis graduated in 1983 from Manhattan’s High School for the Performing Arts, where he concentrated on Classical Ballet. However, he also studied Modern and Traditional West African Dance extensively and performed with Ballet Afrique. He was also on scholarships at the Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey Dance schools in New York.

At age 15, Jarvis enrolled in City College of New York for three years studying chemistry and later in Hunter College in New York City, where he majored in Biology and Mathematics and received  a Bachelor of Science degree in 1988. In 1995, Jarvis earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Animal Behavior and Molecular Neurobehavior from Rockefeller University (RU). He remained at RU completing post-doctoral research in 1998, and briefly danced with the Westchester Ballet Company in Ossining, New York.

From Afterward, from 1998 to 2002, Jarvis was on the faculty in the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. There he studied the speech centers of the brain, using birds as a model and received the Alan T. Waterman Award, the highest honor given by the National Science Foundation to a young researcher. In 2005 Jarvis was a recipient of the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award for biomedical research and was awarded tenure at Duke at the rank of associate professor. During this period, Jarvis also danced with the Cobo Brothers Dance Company (now James Cobo Dance) in Raleigh until 2010.

In 2014, Jarvis was the senior writer for the book Whole-genome which scientifically analyses early branches in the tree of life of modern birds. Two years later, in 2016, he returned to Rockefeller as a tenured professor overseeing the new Laboratory of Neurogenetics of Language.

Jarvis’ work has appeared in refereed journals, and in 2019 his article “Evolution of vocal learning and spoken language” appeared in the journal Science. That year, he was awarded the National Institute of Health (NIH) Director’s Transformative Research Award.

Dr. Erich D. Jarvis was married to Dr. Miriam Rivas, a scientist with the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, Durham. They are the parents of two children, Electra Jarvis, co-founder and Farming Director of Green Food Solution, and Syrus Jarvis, a Senior System Analyst.