Doing good science may be its own reward, but every year another scientific society or institution endeavors to honor successful researchers more tangibly by establishing a new scientific prize. This has created an accumulation of awards so vast that it's almost impossible to get a full picture of the laurels being distributed.

In his office at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, Larry Tise looks ruefully around him at the piles of books and papers dealing with scientific awards: pamphlets, ring binders, and volume after volume of lists and descriptions cover shelves, his desk, and even chairs and boxes throughout the room. After a moment he brings to his desk a massive two-volume, blue-bound set.

"The number of organizations giving international awards is 4,779," he says, hefting one of the volumes of the reference book Awards, Honors, and Prizes (9th ed., Detroit, Gale Research Inc., 1990), "and that's just in the United States...

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