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Fact Sheet

Medal of Science

May 20, 2016

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

What is the National Medal of Science?

The National Medal of Science is the nation's highest scientific honor. Established by Congress in 1959, it was intended to be bestowed annually by the President of the United States on a select group of individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences. Congress expanded this definition in 1980 to recognize outstanding work in the social and behavioral sciences. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy awarded the first Medal of Science to the late Theodore Von Karman, professor emeritus, California Institute of Technology.

Who administers the Medals of Science?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) administers the Medal of Science program for the President.

Who is eligible to receive the Medal of Science?

Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has applied for citizenship within the preceding 12 months.

What is the selection process?

A distinguished independent, 12-member, presidential-appointed committee reviews the nominations and sends its list of recommendations to the President for final selection. The committee is comprised of outstanding scientists and engineers from a variety of disciplines in the natural and social sciences. Serving as ex officio members are the president of the National Academy of Sciences and the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Policy.

For nomination and application information, contact the program manager for the National Medal of Science.

National Medal of Science
Phone: 703-292-8040
Fax: 703-292-9040

Recent Years' Awardees:

For more information about the medal and a database of past recipients, go to:


Program Contacts
Sherrie M. B. Green, NSF, (703) 292-5053, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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