Biological Sciences


National Institute of Environment Health Sciences Center
University of California, Berkeley

Bruce N. Ames, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California in Berkeley, Calif., is cited "for changing the direction of basic and applied research on mutation, cancer and aging." Ames developed a simple, inexpensive test for environmental and natural mutagens, and identified the causes and effects of oxidative DNA damage.

Ames' contributions have had direct application to the evaluation of environmental and natural mutagens. The validity of his test to measure the production of mutations in bacteria has been confirmed by rigorous quantitative comparisons with data available from animal tests. He recognized the preponderance of natural chemicals that have mutagenic potential, and devised a quantitative index to order these chemicals. Ames' work on endogenous DNA damage and its role in aging and cancer is likely to have an even larger impact. In a series of major papers and reviews, he presented evidence that endogenous oxidants are important in damaging DNA and developed an innovative method for measuring oxidative DNA damage in individual humans.


University of Chicago

Janet D. Rowley, Professor at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, wins the Presidential award for "revolutionizing cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment through her discovery of chromosomal translocations in cancer, and for her pioneering work on the relationship of prior treatment to recurring chromosome abnormalities."

Rowley's work epitomizes the "bench to bedside" philosophy in the application of basic discoveries to clinical medicine. Almost immediately after technical methods for examining human chromosomes were developed in the late 1950s, Rowley began applying those methods to the analysis of leukemia cells. She identified visible rearrangements, some of which were characteristic of a particular variety of cancer. In 1972, Dr. Rowley discovered the first two recurring chromosome translocations identified in any human cancer, and subsequently went on to characterize six other translocations and inversions that are commonly observed in various types of leukemia.

Physical Sciences


California Institute of Technology
Seismological Laboratory

The award to Don L. Anderson, Professor of Geophysics at the California Institute of Technology Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena, California, credits his role in advancing the understanding of the composition, structure and dynamics of Earth and Earth-like planets, and for his national and international influence on the advancement of earth sciences over the past three decades.

Early in the 1960s, Anderson drew the attention of geophysicists to seismic anisotropy (study of seismic waves of different velocities both vertically and horizontally) in the upper mantle at a time when only a few scientists had paid attention to it. Now, it has become one of the most exciting tools in seismography. He also discovered and explained the boundaries in the mantle. In 1981, Anderson and Adam Dziewonski established what has become the most widely used standard earth model in the last decade. His book, Theory of the Earth, is a presentation of this broad and provocative research.


Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton University

The National Medal of Science is awarded to John N. Bahcall, Professor of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., "for his pioneering efforts in neutrino astrophysics and his contributions to the development and planning of the Hubble Space Telescope."

Bahcall pioneered the development of neutrino astrophysics, especially his study of neutrinos from the sun. The fact that neutrinos emitted from deep inside the sun have been detected at Earth has verified that the sun produces energy by nuclear fusion processes, similar to those that occur in a hydrogen bomb. Bahcall led the way in establishing, through careful calculations, that fewer neutrinos have been detected than predicted, constituting the "solar neutrino problem," widely recognized as one of the great scientific puzzles of our time. Many physicists believe that the solution to this mystery will have profound implications for the theory of elementary particles. Bahcall has also played a leading role in utilizing the developing field of helioseismology (which studies sound waves in the sun) to determine conditions in the solar core.



National Institute of
Standards and Technology

John W. Cahn, Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is recognized "for his profound influence on the course of materials and mathematics research, and his enormous contributions to three generations of materials scientists, solid-state physicists and mathematicians."

Cahn is regarded as the world's intellectual leader in a broad range of the materials science. He has had a profound influence on the course of materials and mathematics research.


Harvard University

A medal goes to George M. Whitesides, Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., "for his innovative and far-ranging research in chemistry, biology, biochemistry and material science that has brought breakthroughs to transition metal chemistry, heterogeneous reactions, organic surface chemistry, and enzyme-mediated synthesis."

Whitesides made critical contributions to the development of synthetic applications of organocuprates in organic chemistry -- new synthetic methods of producing molecules for applications in pharmaceuticals, agriculture and medicine. He also developed a more quantitative approach to studies of organic surface chemistry. More recently, he has developed a range of imaginative technologies for fabrication of ultrasmall structures. The most promising, called "microcontact printing," is currently being evaluated for potential use in the low-cost fabrication of microelectronic and optical devices.



Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
New York University

Cathleen S. Morawetz, Professor Emerita at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University in New York, N.Y., is cited "for pioneering advances in partial differential equations and wave propagation resulting in application to aerodynamics, acoustics, and optics."

In a series of three significant papers in the 1950s, Morawetz used ingenious new estimates for the solution of mixed nonlinear partial differential equations that ultimately led to advanced studies of wing design in aviation. In the early 1960s, Morawetz obtained important results in geometrical optics in connection with sonar and radar. It was known then that geometrical optics could be used to determine approximately the acoustic and electromagnetic fields scattered by objects. It was believed that this approximation became more accurate as the wavelength approached zero. Morawetz showed that this is the case and obtained an estimate of the error. Her result placed geometrical optics on a firmer foundation and led to further practical use of this approach.



State University of New York
at Buffalo

The National Medal of Science recognizes Eli Ruckenstein, Professor of Chemical Engineering, State University of New York in Buffalo, N.Y., for his "world-class pioneering theories and experimental achievements in colloidal and surface phenomena, catalysts, and advanced materials."

Ruckenstein's most notable contributions deal with complex fluids (surfactant solutions, microemulsions amd liquid crystals), dispersions (colloidal dispersions, emulsions and supported metal catalysts) and materials. He was one of the first to propose models for the aggregation of surfactant molecules in solution, which he later extended to other complex fluids. He pioneered thermodynamic theories of microemulsions and liquid crystals, which explain their stability. Ruckenstein also developed theories regarding the interaction of forces between colloidal particles in colloidal dispersions, which suggested methods for the preparation of materials with interesting thermal and rheological properties. He pioneered theories regarding concentrated emulsions, and employed them to prepare composite polymers as well as membranes for separation processes. Ruckenstein also made seminal contributions in all aspects of catalysis. He was the first to examine theoretically the aging of the supported metal catalysts and to develop a quantum chemical theory of the poisoning and promoting of catalytic materials.

Social and Behavioral Sciences


John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University

William Julius Wilson is cited for his pioneering methods of interdisciplinary social science research that have advanced understanding of the interaction between the macroeconomic, social, structural, cultural and behavioral forces that cause and reproduce inner-city poverty. Wilson has authored five important books, the most influential being The Truly Disadvantaged. In it, he offered a new set of hypotheses about why inner city poverty had been getting worse, and he mapped a new research agenda on the subject. Research on what has increasingly come to be known as the "underclass" has since focused largely on this agenda. His guiding hypotheses about the relationships among urban industrial decline, black job loss, residential segregation and the problems of family instability and communal dysfunction have stimulated a new generation of social, economic, anthropological and psychological research.


"Neutrinos from the Sun" by John Bahcall; Scientific American, July 1969

DATA: National Science Foundation