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)."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
PHILLIP J. PEEBLES
"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.
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."
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 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.
"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."