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News Release 98-084

National Science Medalists Named

December 8, 1998

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

President Clinton today named nine of the nation's most renowned scientific researchers to receive the National Medal of Science, citing them for "their creativity, resolve, and a restless spirit of innovation to ensure continued U.S. leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge."

The individuals awarded the nation's highest scientific honor have had wide-ranging impact on social policy, cancer research, materials science, and greatly extended knowledge of our Earth and the solar systems. Their theoretical achievements also led to many practical applications.

"These are superstars in their respective fields," Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), said. "They've contributed a lifetime of stunning discoveries. We can only recognize them once with a science medal, but we applaud them daily for their continual contributions to humankind, to the reservoir of scientific knowledge and for the impact they have on the students they mentor and educate along the way."

William Julius Wilson, a professor of social policy at Harvard University's JFK School of Government, is one of this year's awardees. He is noted for influencing a generation of social scientists through his studies and published works in urban poverty and its causes.

Bruce N. Ames, University of California, Berkeley, and Janet D. Rowley, University of Chicago, have had a major impact on cancer-related studies -- Ames for work on cancer and aging, Rowley for her research in chromosome abnormalities that opened new areas of study in different types of leukemia.

John W. Cahn, a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., is considered the nation's intellectual leader in materials science.

Eli Ruckenstein, a Romanian-born professor of engineering and applied science at the State University of New York in Buffalo, has many pioneering achievements in most areas of chemical engineering and is a world leader in catalysis and surface phenomena.

George M. Whitesides, chemistry professor at Harvard University, made revolutionary discoveries in several fields of chemistry and more recently, notable advances in the fabrication of ultra small structures.

Cathleen Synge Morawetz, a mathematics professor at New York University, advanced the science of new aircraft wing design because of her work in partial differential equations started in the 1950s.

Don L. Anderson, a geophysics professor at Caltech, has led the way to better understanding of Earth and Earth-like planets.

John N. Bahcall, Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, was a key figure in helping plan the development of the Hubble Space Telescope while also pioneering the development of neutrino astrophysics.

Including this year's recipients, the National Medal of Science now has been awarded to 362 leading U.S. scientists and engineers. The medal was established by Congress in 1959 and is administered by NSF. It honors individuals who have significantly advanced knowledge in the fields of behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics. A 12-member presidential committee reviews nominations for the annual awards.


See also:
NSF Director Rita Colwell's statement
Vital Statistics of the Awardees of the 1998 Medal of Science
Fact Sheet: Medal of Science


  • Bruce N. Ames, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Director, National Institute of Environment Health Sciences Center, University of California, Berkeley, for changing the direction of basic and applied research on mutation, cancer and aging. He devised a simple, inexpensive test for environmental and natural mutagens, identified causes and effects of oxidative DNA damage, and translated these findings into intelligible public policy recommendations on diet and cancer risk for the American people. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, National Science Foundation, 703-292-8070, and Bob Sanders, at the University of California, Berkeley, 510-643-6998,

  • Don L. Anderson, Eleanor and John R. McMillan Professor of Geophysics at the California Institute of Technology Seismological Laboratory, for leading contributions to understanding the composition, structure and dynamics of Earth and Earth-like planets, and his influence on the advancement of earth sciences over the past three decades nationally and internationally. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Robert Tindol, Caltech, 626-395-3631,

  • John N. Bahcall, Richard Black Professor of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, and Visiting Lecturer with rank of professor, Princeton University, for pioneering efforts in neutrino astrophysics and his contributions to the planning of the Hubble Space Telescope. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Georgia Whidden, Institute for Advanced Study, 609-734-8239,

  • John W. Cahn, Fellow, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., for his profound influence on the course of materials and mathematics research, and his immense impact on three generations of materials scientists, solid-state physicists and mathematicians. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Emil Venere, NIST, 301-975-5745,

  • Cathleen Synge Morawetz, Professor Emerita, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, for pioneering advances in partial differential equations and wave propagation resulting in applications to aerodynamics, acoustics and optics. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Josh Plaut, NYU, 212-998-6797,

  • Janet D. Rowley, Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, for revolutionizing cancer research, diagnosis and treatment through her discovery of chromosomal translocations in cancer, and in her pioneering work on the relationship of prior treatment to recurring chromosome abnormalities. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and John Easton, University of Chicago, 773-702-6241,

  • Eli Ruckenstein, Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, State University of New York at Buffalo for pioneering theories and experimental achievements in colloidal and surface phenomena, catalysis and advanced materials, and as a world-leading scientist in these fields. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Ellen Goldbaum, SUNY, Buffalo, 716-645-6066,

  • George M. Whitesides, Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University, for innovative and far-ranging research in chemistry, biology, biochemistry and materials science that have brought breakthroughs to transition metal chemistry, heterogeneous reactions, organic surface chemistry and enzyme-mediated synthesis. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Bill Cromie, Harvard University, 617-495-1585,

  • William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, for pioneering methods of interdisciplinary social science research, advancing understanding of the interaction between the macroeconomic, social structural, cultural and behavioral forces that cause and reproduce inner city poverty. (Media Contacts: Bill Noxon, NSF, and Bill Cromie, Harvard University, 617-495-1585,, also: Miranda Daniloff, JFK School of Government, 617-495-9379,

Media Contacts
William C. Noxon, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

Program Contacts
Susan E. Fannoney, NSF, (703) 292-8096, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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