1997 Medal of Science Recipients

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

William K. Estes, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., for fundamental theories of cognition and learning that transformed the field of experimental psychology and led to the development of quantitative cognitive science. His pioneering methods of quantitative modeling and insistence on rigor and precision established the standard for modern psychological science.

Darieane C. Hoffman, Director of the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute for Transactinium Science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., for her discovery of plutonium in nature and for her numerous contributions to our understanding of radioactive decay, notably of heavy nuclei. She is an internationally recognized leader in nuclear chemistry, particularly in the fields of nuclear fission, properties of actinide elements, and reactions of heavy ions.

Harold S. Johnston, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of California in Berkeley, Calif., for understanding the chemistry of nitrogen compounds and their role and reactions in Earth's stratosphere and in urban areas. His chemical and environmental research, along with his commitment to science in the service of society, has resulted in pivotal contributions to the understanding and conservation of Earth's atmosphere.

Marshall N. Rosenbluth, Professor of Physics at the University of California in San Diego, Calif., for his fundamental contributions to plasma physics, his leadership in the quest to develop controlled thermonuclear fusion, and his wide-ranging technical contributions to national security. His theoretical studies of the behavior of plasmas and their instabilities provided a significant foundation for the design and development of prototype devices for fusion power.

Martin Schwarzschild, Emeritus Higgins Professor of Astronomy (recently deceased) at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., for his seminal contributions to the theory of the evolution of stars and his creative insights into the dynamics of galaxies. His research forms the basis of much of contemporary astrophysics, and the many students he trained are among today's leaders in the field.

James D. Watson, President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., for five decades of scientific and intellectual leadership in molecular biology, starting with his co-discovery of the doublehelix structure of DNA. He was a forceful advocate for the Human Genome Project and shaped that effort as the founding Director of the National Center for Human Genome Research.

Robert A. Weinberg, Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., for crucial discoveries that clarified the genetic basis of human cancers. His work has influenced virtually all major aspects of our current understanding of the origins of cancer, from mutations affecting certain cellular genes, to the development of diagnostic tests for such mutations, to the description of the combination of events that produce cancer.

George W. Wetherill, Member of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Washington, D.C., for his fundamental contributions to measuring astronomical time scales and to understanding how Earth-like planets may be created in evolving solar systems. His pioneering achievements include developing precise radiometric techniques for dating the age of meteorites, and creating conceptual models and computer algorithms for the accretion of a few solid, terrestrial planets by collision with smaller neighbors.

Shing-Tung Yau, Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., for profound contributions to mathematics that have had great impact on fields as diverse as topology, algebraic geometry, general relativity, and string theory. His work insightfully combines two different mathematical approaches and has resulted in the solution of several long-standing and important problems in mathematics.

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