National Academy Honors 13 Scientists, Mathematicians With Awards

Mathematicians With Awards Two life scientists are among the 13 researchers receiving awards from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, D.C., today as part of NAS's 133rd annual meeting. A 'CALL FOR NOMINATIONS' For the first time in five years, there are no women among the individuals receiving awards from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1996. Catherine Didion, executive director of the Washington-based Association for Women in Science, stresses that each of this y

By | April 29, 1996

Mathematicians With Awards Two life scientists are among the 13 researchers receiving awards from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, D.C., today as part of NAS's 133rd annual meeting.

For the first time in five years, there are no women among the individuals receiving awards from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1996.

Catherine Didion, executive director of the Washington-based Association for Women in Science, stresses that each of this year's honorees is deserving of his award, but says it is disappointing that no women were chosen. "Some of the awards-like the one in molecular biology, the one with public welfare, the issue having to do with scientific reviewing-are specifically in fields where women have done well, have excelled for a period of time," Didion notes. "It's kind of a sad commentary that of the 13 award [winners], not one of them is a woman," she adds. "I think it reflects on what I would call the social nature of science. When we look at awards-and we're all guilty of this, women as well as men; it's human nature-we look to our immediate circle of colleagues."

NAS president Bruce M. Alberts points out that while there are no women being honored this year, women served on four of the committees selecting the award recipients. In an E-mailed message to The Scientist, he says that "very few women were nominated" for awards. "The awards nomination process is open to everyone," Alberts observes, adding that he would welcome a "'call for nominations' for our awards to help increase the number of qualified nominations (and thereby, hopefully, increasing the number of qualified female nominees)."


Surprise and gratification are the reactions of many of the winners. One says he was "genuinely shocked" at his award, another calls himself "taken aback," and several are thankful that they and their assistants' efforts are being noticed and commended.

Andrew Wiles
The recipients are being cited for "their outstanding contributions to science." The annual meeting also will see the election of new members and the induction of 60 new members elected last year (K.Y. Kreeger, The Scientist, May 29, 1995, page 3).

The winner of the annual Public Welfare Medal, NAS's highest honor, is William T. Golden, cochairman of the New York-based Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government. He is receiving a bronze medal in recognition of his "distinguished contributions in the application of science to the public welfare."

Golden, 86, who designed the United States's first presidential science advisory organization, "has been a leader in national science policy for the past 40 years," NAS home secretary Peter H. Raven, the chairman of the selection committee, noted in a statement.

William Golden
After receiving his bachelor's degree in biology and Elizabethan poetry from the University of Pennsylvania, Golden found himself in the U.S. Navy, serving on active duty as an officer during World War II. His tasks included technical responsibilities and war plans, and he invented a device to help fire machine guns.

Following the war, he landed at the Atomic Energy Commission, assisting one of its commissioners before returning to the private sector as a corporate director and board member. When President Harry Truman solicited his advisers for names of potential science consultants, a former naval comrade, who had become director of the budget bureau, recommended Golden. The assignment led to Golden's suggestion to establish an office of science adviser and a science advisory commission at the White House. Truman approved the plan, and President Dwight Eisenhower implemented it in 1957.

Golden went on to help establish the National Science Foundation and to serve with the State Department and the second Hoover Commission. The active chairman, emeritus, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, he is an officer and trustee of several scientific and educational organizations, as well as director of General American Investors Co. and Block Drug Co.

"Bill Golden's contributions to science and the public welfare derive from his insatiable curiosity about scientific and technological developments and his devotion to serving the public," NAS president Bruce M. Alberts says. "This award is bestowed upon him for a lifetime of service."

Golden himself is reluctant to discuss his contributions to the country, observing, "I don't think that's for me to decide. I've contributed a lot to myself. I've found it interesting and rewarding. . . . NAS seems to think it was enough to give me a medal, and that's nice."

In addition, he downplays the depth of his scientific involvement over the years: "I find the periphery of science and academia interesting-the knowledge of science, physics and biology especially, in a superficial way, but enough to feel comfortable following the literature and get a sense of what's going on.

"I just find these activities congenial to my interests, and the people I relate to I find interesting and rewarding," he continues. "This has been self-serving on my part, not out of any sense of being virtuous. I hope it's been helpful. The academy seems to think so." As the winner of the Public Welfare Medal, Golden becomes a nonvoting member of the academy.

Michael Levine
Michael S. Levine, one of the two life scientists being honored, is receiving the NAS Award in Molecular Biology, a bronze medal and $20,000 presented annually for "a recent notable discovery in molecular biology by a young scientist." The 41-year-old Levine, a professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego, is being cited "for his insightful contributions to our understanding of gene regulation networks and molecular mechanisms governing the development of organisms with a segmented body plan."

Levine says that his team is examining gene regulation in fruit fly embryos to see "when the embryonic cells first become committed, or determined, to develop into particular adult structures." He calls it "the magic process whereby embryonic cells that are equivalent and could become anything are now programmed to become particular structures. That occurs during a window of less than one hour during the embryonic stage of the fly" (J. Jiang, M. Levine, Cell, 72:741-52, 1993).

The 41-year-old Levine, who jokes that the best part of the award is its requirement that the recipient be "a young scientist," says he was "flattered" and "genuinely shocked to be named the winner."

"I learned back in junior high school that there are two kinds of people-those who get elected class president and win prizes, and those who don't. I have always belonged to the latter category," he remarks. "I was surprised. I thought it was a joke. I called the academy to make sure it wasn't a prank."

Ecologist John Terborgh, the James B. Duke Professor of Environmental Science at Duke University's Center for Tropical Conservation, is the winner of the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal, given every four years "for meritorious work in zoology or paleontology published in a three- to five-year period."

Terborgh, 59, has traveled to the Amazon rain forest for each of the last 33 years and is being honored "for his research on the ecology, sociobiology, biodiversity, and plant phenology of the tropics and for his 1992 book, Diversity and the Tropical Rain Forest [New York: Scientific American Library, 1992]."

"I've been a naturalist all my life, since I was a small boy," he observes. "I like to be outdoors, looking at plants and animals."

An NAS member, Terborgh is collecting a bronze medal and $5,000 prize. "It's very gratifying in the sense that it shows some of my colleagues have confidence and appreciate the things I have been doing for 30 years in the Amazon," he notes, adding that he will continue his South American research trips "until the old body wears out, I guess."

Raymond Roble
Four of the winners have based their research on what goes on in the sky and beyond. Raymond G. Roble, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research's High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colo., is being awarded the Arctowski Medal, given every three years "to recognize studies in solar physics and solar-terrestrial relationships." In addition to receiving a bronze medal and $20,000 prize, Roble gets to designate an institution to receive a $60,000 gift. He has not chosen that institution yet.

Roble is being cited "for his indispensable contributions to understanding the effects of variable solar inputs on the Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere by powerful global modeling techniques."

Academy member James G. Anderson, the Philip S. Weld Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at Harvard University, is receiving the Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship. The $20,000 prize is given every three years "to a scientist making new contributions to the physics of the Earth and whose four to six lectures would provide a solid, timely, and useful addition to the knowledge and literature in the field."

NAS has cited Anderson for his "pioneering work" in researching radicals in the stratosphere and the results of human influence on the ozone layer. Anderson has not announced when and where the lectures will take place.

The annual NAS Award for Initiatives in Research is given in 1996 for work in the field of astrophysics. The $15,000 prize, awarded "to recognize innovative young scientists and to encourage research likely to lead toward new capabilities for human benefit," goes this year to Christopher Stubbs, an associate professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Washington.

Stubbs has developed and used equipment to study "fundamental issues in physics and astronomy, including the discovery of baryonic dark matter in the galactic halo."

NAS member Phillip J. Peebles, the Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton University's Joseph Henry Laboratories, is delivering the academy's triennial Robertson Memorial Lecture, a $7,500 prize awarded this year for international aspects of cosmology. The academy is recognizing Peebles for contributing to "our understanding of background radiation, galaxy formation, and large-scale structure.

"No other living scientist has done so much to transform cosmology into a genuine science," NAS states. Peebles is slated to lecture on the topic during the current annual meeting.

Back on the ground, academy member Ahmed H. Zewail, the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry and a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, is receiving the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences, offered yearly "for innovative research in the chemical sciences that in the broadest sense contributes to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity."

Zewail, 50, is being honored with a bronze medal and $10,000 prize "for carrying out the pioneering work that established the new field of laser femtochemistry, using ultrafast lasers and molecular beams to probe the dynamics of the chemical bond in real time."

He studies and records chemical dynamics-atoms bonding and breaking-on femtosecond time scales, with one femtosecond equal to one thousandth-millionth-millionth of a second (K. Phillips, The Scientist, May 29, 1989, page 17). "Basically, you're photographing snapshots of the atoms and molecules in the intercourse of a chemical reaction in real time," Zewail told The Scientist three years ago (R. Kaufman, Feb. 22, 1993, page 22).

Of his NAS triumph, Zewail notes, "You don't think really about winning awards, but when they come they are a pleasant surprise. There are so many deserving people around, it's nice when you are the lucky one."

He contends that the award's selection "by colleagues across the boundaries of all fields of chemistry" will benefit everyone associated with his research. "For my students and for me, that is indeed a nice recognition of the importance of the field. That helps all of us-students, postdocs, the field itself. And hopefully younger people will develop new ideas and build up some of these ideas we have done."

John Sinfelt
John H. Sinfelt, another academy member, is receiving the NAS Award for the Industrial Application of Science. Recently retired from his post as senior scientific adviser for Exxon Research and Engineering Co. in Clinton, N.J., Sinfelt discovered the principle of bimetallic cluster catalysis, which led to the development of the catalyst used to make unleaded gasoline.

His award, given every three years, carries a $25,000 prize "for original work of intrinsic scientific importance and with significant, beneficial applications in industry."

Andrew Wiles, whose proof of Fermat's Last Theorem earned him wide acclaim, is the winner of the NAS Award in Mathematics, offered every four years. A professor of mathematics at Princeton, he also is being honored for his efforts in helping to establish a portion of the Shimura-Taniyama conjecture, which posits that all elliptic curves are modular (B. Cipra, Science, 271:1668-9, 1996).

The academy praises Wiles, whose $5,000 prize covers "excellence in research in the mathematical sciences published within the past 10 years," for "his courage and technical power in bringing his idea to completion."

The annual Troland Research Awards, given to support research in experimental psychology, go this year to Joseph E. Steinmetz and Steven G. Yantis. Steinmetz, a professor and chairman of psychology at Indiana University, studies the cellular basis of learning and memory. Yantis, a professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University, researches how the brain organizes unexpected visual images into coherent representations of the world. Each is being given a $35,000 prize.

The NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing, which rotates annually among disciplines, is being given in 1996 for reviewing in the social and political sciences within the past 10 years. The award honors the late J. Murray Luck and is cosponsored by the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia and Annual Reviews Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif.

This year's winner is Jeffrey S. Banks, a professor of economics and political science at the University of Rochester, "for his influential reviews of work on the theory of games of incomplete formation, theory of automata, and the theory of repeated play games as they apply to political relationships, as well as for his extensive editorial work."

"I apply game theory to studies of economics and politics," explains Banks, the author of a 100-page monograph entitled Signaling Games in Political Science (Chur, Switzerland: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1991). "Game theory you can think of as multi-person decision theory, trying to understand how individual interactions among economic or political actors plays itself out."

Banks, 37, was "surprised and taken aback by" the award, which comes with a $5,000 prize. "I didn't even know I was up for it. . . . The National Academy is such a well-regarded and highly thought-of organization that any sort of recognition like this is quite stunning."

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