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News Release 99-023

National Science Board Honors Maxine Frank Singer with Vannevar Bush Award

April 15, 1999

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Board (NSB) has named Maxine Frank Singer, Ph.D., president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., to receive the 1999 Vannevar Bush Award for lifetime contributions to science and engineering.

The NSB, the governing body of the National Science Foundation (NSF), annually honors a senior scientist and statesperson as a distinguished leader in science, engineering or technology. The Bush Award recognizes years of pioneering discoveries, public service and contributions to the welfare of the nation.

Singer's honor is a result of her many years of pioneering scientific achievements in molecular biology. She was also recognized for her activism and creativity in developing programs in math and science education for inner-city Washington, D.C., school children and their teachers. She was also cited for her willingness to speak out on science matters facing society and for influencing national science policy, particularly where there were social, moral, or ethical implications.

Singer's research contributions range over several areas of biochemistry and molecular biology, and the evolution of defective viruses. She pioneered the isolation and characterization of enzymes involved in nucleic acid metabolism. Her work made it possible to make the RNA molecules that led to the discovery of the genetic code.

Since 1988, Singer has been Carnegie Institution's 8th president. Vannevar Bush was its 4th.

"Singer has been a spokesperson and leader on issues related to the promise of genetic manipulation in research and the curing of disease. She shares with other scientists a concern about the decline of math and science education in this country, the lack of understanding of science among the general population, and the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the scientific community," said Vera Rubin, member of the National Science Board and staff member at Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

In 1989, Singer introduced "Project First Light," in which neighborhood 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders attend an imaginative Saturday science school at the Carnegie Institution. In 1994, she initiated the Carnegie Academy for Science Education, which includes six-week summertime institutes for elementary school teachers, along with continuing associations throughout the school year.

Singer also serves on several boards of directors, including Johnson & Johnson. In 1992, she received the National Medal of Science from President Bush for her "outstanding scientific accomplishments and her deep concern for the societal responsibility of the scientist."

The NSB established the Vannevar Bush Award in 1980 to commemorate NSF's 30th anniversary. It was Vannevar Bush who, at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, recommended in 1945 that a foundation be established by Congress to serve as a focal point for the federal government's support and encouragement of research and education in science and technology, and for the development of a national science policy. Five years later, Congress passed a bill creating the NSF.

Singer will receive the Bush Award on May 5 in Washington, D.C., at a National Science Board awards ceremony.


Media Contacts
Cheryl L. Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email:

Program Contacts
Susan E. Fannoney, NSF, (703) 292-8096, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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