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National Science Foundation

Designing the National Medal of Science

Photo of medal front and back
Photo of plaster cast of the National Medal of Science

The National Medal of Science (NMS) depicts Man, surrounded by Earth, sea and sky, contemplating and seeking to understand nature. The crystal in his hand symbolizes the universal order and also suggests the basic unit of living things. The formula he is sketching in the sand symbolizes scientific abstraction.

The gold medal was sculpted by the prolific medalic artist, Donald DeLue, who also made sculptures for Omaha Beach on the Normandy coast of France, as well as the Boy Scout Memorial Tribute in Washington. DeLue's sculpture for the NMS was based on a design by Richard H. Bolt, an associate director for planning at the National Science Foundation, who had a background in fine arts. The design was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Executive Order 10910, signed on Jan. 17, 1961.

Center image: A plaster cast of the front of the National Medal of Science.
Credit: Donald DeLue, sculptor; photo from the NSF Collection

Right image: Both sides of the National Medal of Science. The front reads "National Medal of Science." On the reverse: "Awarded by the President of the United States of America."
Credit: Steven C. Buhneing, National Science Foundation

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.