Skip to main content
Email Print Share

News Release 10-190

White House Announces National Medal of Science Laureates

President Obama to recognize the contributions of America's top scientists and engineers and the lasting impact of their research

Image of the National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor bestowed by the U.S. President.

The National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor bestowed by the U.S. President.

October 14, 2010

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

President Obama today named 10 researchers as recipients of the National Medal of Science, and three individuals and one team as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honors bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers and inventors. The recipients will receive their awards at a White House ceremony tentatively scheduled for mid-November.

"The extraordinary accomplishments of these scientists, engineers and inventors are a testament to American industry and ingenuity," President Obama said. "Their achievements have redrawn the frontiers of human knowledge while enhancing American prosperity, and it is my tremendous pleasure to honor them for their important contributions."

"Each year we are proud to help in the selection of the National Medal of Science recipients, gifted and talented Americans whose solid research contributes to the excellence of America's science and engineering enterprise," said Cora Marrett, acting deputy director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). "The work of these 2009 laureates has led to impressive leaps in quantum physics, pharmaceuticals, solar energy conversion, optics and medicine, among other fields. Among the laureates are scientists who have promoted the advancement of women in science, and mentored young people of all backgrounds and origins."

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959, and is administered for the White House by NSF. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of presidential appointees based on their advanced knowledge in, and contributions to, the biological, behavioral/social and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing and mathematics.

This year's National Medal of Science recipients are:

Yakir Aharonov, Chapman University, for his work in quantum physics which ranges from the Aharonov-Bohm effect, to the notion of weak measurement, making him one of the most influential figures in modern physics.

Stephen Benkovic, Pennsylvania State University, for his seminal research that has changed our understanding of how enzymes function, singly or in complexes, and has led to novel pharmaceuticals and biocatalysts.

Esther Conwell, University of Rochester, for promoting women in science, and for contributions to understanding electron and whole transport in semiconducting materials that has helped to enable integrated circuits and organic electronic devices.

Marye Anne Fox, University of California, San Diego, for seminal contributions to chemistry by elucidating the role that non-homogeneous environments can exert on excited-state processes, and enhancing our understanding of charge-transfer reactions and their application to such fields as polymers, solar energy conversion, and nanotechnology.

Susan Lindquist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for showing that changes in protein folding can have profound and unexpected influences in fields as wide-ranging as human disease, evolution and nanotechnology, and for providing fundamental experimental support for the prion hypothesis. The prion hypothesis is a key scientific assertion associated with a group of progressive conditions that affect the brain and nervous system of many animals, including humans.

Mortimer Mishkin, National Institutes of Health, for fundamental contributions to understanding the functional organization of the primate brain, including the discovery of the role of the inferior temporal cortex in vision, delineation of the selective contributions of medial temporal lobe structures to memory, and discovery of the neural bases of cognitive and noncognitive memory systems.

David Mumford, Brown University, for extraordinary contributions to the mathematical, engineering and neurobiological sciences.

Stanley Prusiner, University of California, San Francisco, for his discovery of prions representing an unprecedented class of infectious agents comprised only of proteins, which elucidated a novel paradigm of disease in which a single pathogenic process produces infectious, inherited or sporadic illnesses in humans and animals.

Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research, for his fundamental contributions to the understanding of Earth's coupled climate system through numerical simulation, leadership in U.S. science policy, and inspiring mentorship of young people of all backgrounds and origins.

Amnon Yariv, California Institute of Technology, for scientific and engineering contributions to photonics and quantum electronics that have profoundly impacted lightwave communications and the field of optics as a whole.

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation has its roots in a 1980 statute and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes individuals or companies for their outstanding contributions to the promotion of technology for the improvement of the economic, environmental or social well-being of the United States. Nominees are selected by a distinguished independent committee representing both the private and public sectors

This year's National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipients are:

Harry Coover for his invention of cyanoacrylates, a new class of adhesives that have influenced medicine and industry, and are known widely to consumers as "super" glues.

Helen Free for her seminal contributions to diagnostic chemistry, primarily through dip-and-read urinalysis tests, that first enabled diabetics to monitor their blood glucose levels on their own.

Steven Sasson for the invention of the digital camera, which has revolutionized the way images are captured, stored and shared, thereby creating new opportunities for commerce, for education and for improved worldwide communication.

Marcian E. "Ted" Hoff, Jr., Stanley Mazor and Federico Faggin for the conception, design, development and application of the first microcomputer, a universal building block that enabled a multitude of novel digital electronic systems.


Note to regional reporters: For more information about or interviews with local winners of the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, please contact the awardees' home institution or agency.


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311,
Christine Clark, UCSD, (858) 534-7618,
David Hosansky, UCAR, (303) 497-8611,
Barbara Kennedy, Penn State, (814) 863-4682,
John R. Weiner, CALTECH, (626) 395-3226,
Matthew Fearer, Whitehead Institute, MIT,
Jennifer O'Brien, UCSF, (415) 476-8432,
Mary Platt, Chapman University, (714) 628-7271,
Anne Kidwell, Brown University, (401) 863-2752,
Peter Iglinski, University of Rochester, (585) 273-4726,
Kate Eagan, National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, (301) 443-4536,

Program Contacts
Mayra N. Montrose, NSF, (703) 292-4757,

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) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

mail icon Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page:
NSF News:
For the News Media:
Science and Engineering Statistics:
Awards Searches: