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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 00-89 - November 13, 2000

Media contact:

 Bill Noxon

 (703) 292-8070


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 Susan Fannoney

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Clinton Names a Diverse Group of Researchers to Receive the 2000 National Medals of Science

Group photo of 2000 Medal of Science awardees
The 2000 Medal of Science honorees joined President Clinton (center), NSF Director Rita R. Colwell (second from right), Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta (right), and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Neal Lane (far left) in the Oval Office on December 1, 2000.

 Note About Images

President Clinton today honored twelve renowned American scientists and engineers by naming them to receive the National Medal of Science.

In announcing the year 2000 Medal of Science honorees, the president paid tribute to a diverse group of researchers who set new directions in social policy, neuroscience, biology, chemistry, bioengineering, mathematics, physics, and earth and environmental sciences. The medals will be presented at an awards dinner scheduled for December 1 in Washington, D.C.

"These exceptional scientists and engineers have transformed our world and enhanced our daily lives," Clinton said. "Their imagination and ingenuity will continue to inspire future generations of American scientists to remain at the cutting edge of scientific discovery and technological innovation."

Ten of the twelve science medalists this year received NSF support for portions of their academic careers or research work. The group honored today includes a Nobel Prize winner from the 1950s and another from the 1990s.

Willis E. Lamb, a University of Arizona regents professor, received a 1955 Nobel Prize in Physics for his experimental work in hydrogen. His revelation of a quantum effect that became known as the "Lamb Shift" helped to create the new field of quantum electrodynamics, a key aspect of modern elementary particle physics. Four decades later, Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in describing the role of social forces that shape individual economic behavior. He is well known for studies that led to new economic analyses of racial discrimination. The methods employed are still used to detect discrimination, such as recent studies on practices in mortgage lending.

"We invest in people whose creative thinking leads to the discoveries that create new bodies of knowledge for the benefit and well-being of the American people," National Science Foundation (NSF) director Rita Colwell said. "The nation can be very proud of the extraordinary contributions these 12 stellar researchers and educators have made to their fields, their students, their colleagues and to the public."

Medals of Science in biological sciences will go to: Nancy Andreasen of the University of Iowa; Peter H. Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and professor of botany at Washington University in St. Louis; and Carl R. Woese, professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Andreasen is known for her discovery of the relationship between manic-depressive illness and creativity. She was also one of the first scientists to demonstrate brain abnormalities in people with schizophrenia and mood disorders. Raven, a preeminent scientist in plant systematics and evolution, has published 550 books and papers. He introduced, with his colleagues, the concept of coevolution, which helped refocus much subsequent evolutionary research based on the co-adaptation between plants and animals. And he has directed the Missouri Botanical Garden into a position of national prominence as a center for the study of plant diversity.

Woese's work in proposing the notion that there are three primary evolutionary domains into which all living things may be classified led to a quantitative map, or universal tree of life, by which the diversity of all life can be assessed.

For chemistry, John D. Baldeschwieler of CalTech and Ralph F. Hirschmann of the University of Pennsylvania are receiving the science medal.

Baldeschwieler's work in molecular assemblies led to practical pharmaceutical products and instrumentation. He developed Ion Cyclotron Resonance Spectroscopy, an important tool for chemical and biochemical analysis that led to a new scientific field providing unique ways to study molecular structure and reactivity. Hirschmann's research while at Merck & Co., Inc., led to a host of new medicines, such as the anti-parasitic drug Ivermec that is helping to eradicate river blindness in the Third World. His work also led to drugs that treat hypertension, congestive heart failure and severe infection.

Research bioengineer Yuan-Cheng Fung of the University of California at San Diego made major contributions to the field of aeroelasticity, which formed the defining ideas in an important area of aerospace engineering. In the late 1960s, he conducted pioneering research in biomechanics by applying his knowledge of mechanics to the study of biological tissues. Results of his work are helping to solve important biomedical problems.

Mathematicians John Griggs Thompson of the University of Florida and Karen K. Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas Austin are receiving medals for their theoretical work. Thompson is considered a world leader in group theory, the most fundamental of all algebraic structures. Arising from studies of symmetry in nature, the first application of group theory was used in solving polynomial equations. In 1970, Thompson was awarded mathematics' top international prize, the Fields Medal, for his work in classifying all of the finite simple groups. Uhlenbeck stands out as one of the founders of geometry based on analytical methods and is a leader in her field as a mentor for women and minorities in mathematics education.

In physics, Jeremiah P. Ostriker of Princeton University is receiving a medal for contributions that advanced the understanding of the dynamics of galaxies and star clusters, including the existence of large quantities of dark matter. Medalist Gilbert F. White, a professor of geography at the University of Colorado, has had an impact on the nation's public policy for over five decades regarding uses of floodplains and non-structural approaches to reduce damage from flooding and other natural hazards.

NSF administers the Medals of Science for the White House.


For more information see:


Summary of Individual Achievements - Year 2000 Medals of Science

Behavioral/Social Sciences

Gary Becker, University Professor of Economics and Sociology, University of Chicago - Becker pioneered the economic analysis of racial discrimination and led recent developments in how social forces shape individual economic behavior. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, National Science Foundation, 703-292-8070 wnoxon@nsf.gov, Bill Harms, 773-702-8356, w-harms@uchicago.edu)

Biological Sciences

Nancy C. Andreasen, Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, Iowa City - Andreasen's pivotal contributions included joining behavioral science with the technologies of neuroscience and neuroimaging in order to understand the processes such as memory and creativity. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu)

Peter H. Raven, Director, Missouri Botanical Garden and Englemann Professor of Botany, Washington University in St. Louis - Raven has become one of the world's leading authorities on plant systematics and evolution, introduced the concept of coevolution and is a leader in international efforts to preserve biodiversity. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, Tony Fitzpatrick, 314-935-5272, tony_fitzpatrick@aismail.wustl.edu, and Anne Enright Shepherd 314-577-5142, anne.shepherd@mobot.org)

Carl R. Woese, Stanley O. Ikenberry Professor of Microbiology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign - Woese's molecular studies of RNA sequences revolutionized our view of life's history and its diversity. Using ribosomal RNA comparisons, his research led to the formulation of a universal tree of life, a quantitative map of evolutionary diversity. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Jim Barlow, 217-333-5802, b-james3@uiuc.edu)


John D. Baldeschwieler, J. Stanley Johnson Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology - Baldeschwieler's developments in molecular assemblies translated into practical pharmaceutical and instrumentation products. His work in developing new physical methods for the study of biological systems has led, for example, to the application of targeted delivery of pharmaceuticals for cancer diagnosis and therapy. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Robert Tindol, 626-395-3631, tindol@caltech.edu)

Ralph F. Hirschmann, Rao Makineni Professor of Bio-organic Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia - Hirschmann's work in several fields of chemistry with Merck & Co., Inc., led to the development of many life-saving medicines. As the University of Pennsylvania's first Research Professor in Chemistry, he established a collaborative research program between the university and industry leading to continued discoveries of biomedical importance. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Steve Bradt, University of Pennsylvania, 215-573-6604, (bradt@pobox.upenn.edu)


Yuan-Cheng B. Fung, Professor Emeritus, Research Bioengineer, University of California at San Diego - Fung's theory of aeroelasticity formed the defining ideas in how aero-structures interact with aerodynamic flows, an important contribution to aerospace engineering. Applying analytical methods of mechanics to the study of biological tissues, he contributed new concepts in the field of biomechanics in which engineering principles are used to solve important biomedical problems. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Denine Hagen, 858-534-2920, dhagen@ucsd.edu)


John Griggs Thompson, Graduate Research Professor of Mathematics, University of Florida, Gainesville - Thompson is considered one of the foremost group theorists of all time, and his name is associated with one of the monumental achievements of the 20th Century - the classification of all finite simple groups. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1970, the highest international honor in mathematics, regarded by some as the mathematics equivalent to a Nobel Prize. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Steve Orlando, 352-392-0186, sfo@ufl.edu)

Karen K. Uhlenbeck, Sid W. Richardson Foundation Chair in Mathematics, University of Texas - Austin - Uhlenbeck made pioneering contributions to global analysis and gauge theory that resulted in advances in mathematical physics and the theory of partial differential equations. She is considered a founder of geometry based on analytical methods. She is also a leader in encouraging young women to study mathematics. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Mary Lenz, 512-471-3046, mary@opa.wwh.utexas.edu)

Physical Sciences

Willis E. Lamb, Regents Professor, University of Arizona - Lamb won the 1955 Nobel Prize for experimental work on hydrogen that revealed a new relativistic quantum effect. His work became one of the foundations of quantum electrodynamics. He also pioneered the field of laser physics. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Lori Stiles, 520-626-4402, stiles@uanews.org)

Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Provost, and Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy and Provost, Princeton University - Ostriker's contributions in astrophysics revolutionized concepts of the nature of pulsars, the sizes and masses of galaxies and the nature and distribution of matter in the universe. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Lauren Robinson Brown, 609-258-3601, lauren@princeton.edu)

Gilbert F. White, Gustavson Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado - White achieved national attention for his approaches on using non-structural means to reduce damage from flooding. His research on the use of floodplains and their full range of social costs and benefits in different locales provided the basis for a new research paradigm and new public policy. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Peter Caughey, 303-492-4007, caughey@spot.colorado.edu)




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