These two Presidential awards--the National Medal of Technology and the National Medal of Science--are among the most sought after by U.S. innovators and scientists. The recipients of the 1998 accolades were announced by President Bill Clinton on December 8. "These extraordinary scientists and engineers have applied their creativity, resolve, and restless spirit of innovation to ensure continued U.S. leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge," said Clinton.

The National Medal of Technology, which is administered by the Department of Commerce's Office of Technology Assessment, recognizes technological breakthroughs resulting in the creation of new or significantly improved products, processes or services. This year's five medals laud heart pioneer Denton A. Cooley, two computer scientists from Bell Labs, a team of agricultural biotechnologists from Monsanto Corp., and two innovative life sciences companies--Biogen and Bristol-Myers Squibb. The National Medal of Science, under the aegis of the National Science Foundation, cites the contributions of nine researchers in physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, and social sciences.

Among the present winners are four researchers who have published reports of their work in the pages of Scientific American. These include Medal of Technology recipient Robert T. Fraley of Monsanto; Medal of Science laureates include geophysicist Don L. Anderson, cosmologist John N. Bahcall and chemist George M. Whitesides.


Texas Heart Institute
Texas Medical Center
Houston, Tex.

An award long overdue goes to Denton A. Cooley, M.D. of the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center. For more than six decades, Cooley has stood at the forefront of life-saving cardiovascular surgery. In 1968, Cooley performed the first successful human heart transplant in the United States and in 1969 the world's first implantation of an artificial heart in a human as a bridge to heart transplantation. He also founded the Texas Heart Institute, which has served more heart patients than any other institution in the world.


Monsanto Co., St. Louis, Mo.

Agricultural biotechnology is still controversial, but Monsanto has taken a leadership position despite the opposition. This team award recognizes the contributions of four Monsanto researchers-- Robert Fraley, co-President of the Agricultural Sector; Robert Horsch, co-President of the Sustainable Development Sector and General Manager of the Agracetus Research Campus; Ernest Jaworski, retired Director of the Biological Sciences Program; and Stephen Rogers, Director of Biotechnology Projects at Monsanto's European Center for Crop Research in Brussels, Belgium--for their pioneering achievements in plant biology and agricultural biotechnology, and for global leadership in the development and commercialization of genetically modified crops to enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability.

Is bioengineered agriculture a risk worth taking? Yes, says Horsch, in a recent speech: "We can not afford to squander our time debating that last fraction of risk from fantastic 'what if' scenarios of biotechnology that ignore 10 millennia of broad experience in agriculture and tremendous modern insights into the science of genetics."

Bell Laboratories
Murray Hill, N.J.

Bell Laboratories
Murray Hill, N.J.

Much of the progress of computer hardware, software, and networks during the past quarter century can be traced to Kenneth L. Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie of Bell Laboratories, who are cited for the invention of the Unix operating system and the C programming language.

Without operating systems, computer hardware is useless; before UNIX, operating systems were large, vendor-specific, and designed to cope with particular features of a given machine. UNIX was the first commercially important portable operating system, usable almost without change across the span of hardware from the smallest laptops to supercomputers. Today, Unix is the operating system of most large Internet servers, businesses and universities, and a major part of academic and industrial research in operating systems is based on Unix.

Most commercial software is written in C or C++, a direct descendant of C that was also developed at Bell Labs, or more recently Java, a C++ descendant developed at Sun Microsystems. The successes of Unix are intertwined with C, the first general-purpose programming language to combine the efficiency of assembly language with high-level abstract expressiveness. Like Unix, C programs can move essentially without change from machine to machine, eliminating the need for expensive, error-prone software rewrites.

Ritchie and Thompson joined Bell Labs within a year of each other, Thompson in 1966 and Ritchie in 1967. They worked closely together for several years on the design and development of Unix. The C language, in which the Unix operating system is written, was invented by Ritchie. It grew out of an earlier language, B, written by Thompson. Both also helped develop the Plan 9 and Inferno operating systems, invented at Bell Labs and introduced in 1995 and 1996, respectively. Most recently, they have contributed to the development of Lucent Technologies PathStar Access Server, which provides packet voice and data services.

James Vincent, CEO
Cambridge, Mass.

Biogen Inc. won a corporate citation for its "leadership in applying breakthroughs in biology to the development of life-saving and life-enhancing pharmaceutical products designed to treat large, previously underserved patient populations throughout the world; and for the development of hepatitis B vaccines, the first vaccines using recombinant DNA technology."

Biogen is a biopharmaceutical company principally engaged in discovering and developing drugs for human healthcare through genetic engineering. Its research and development focuses on novel products for multiple sclerosis, inflammatory, respiratory, kidney and cardiovascular diseases and in developmental biology and gene therapy.

Charles A. Heimbold, Jr., CEO
New York, N.Y.

Bristol-Myers Squibb won its citation "for extending and enhancing human life through innovative pharmaceutical research and development, and for redefining the science of clinical study through groundbreaking and extremely complex clinical trials that are now recognized as industry models."

The company has invested heavily in what it calls "frontier technologies" to shorten the time it takes to identify promising new drugs and move them through development to the marketplace. It has focused initiatives in applied genomics-- the study of how genes work in concert--high throughput screening, combinatorial chemistry, informatics, and automation.

The National Medal of Technology is a Federally Registered Trademark of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Scientific American is proud to be associated with this prestigious awards.