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Lasers & Sources

Obama presents National Medals of Science and Technology

SPIE Newsroom
8 October 2009

President Obama awarded the nation's highest honor for scientific and technological achievement - the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation - to 13 recipients in an awards ceremony held at the White House.

"The scientists in this room have plumbed the furthest reaches of the universe and the deepest recesses of the human mind. They've sequenced the human genome and stimulated the workings of the atom. They've developed technologies that have greatly improved our understanding of the human body and the natural world, and they've fostered innovations that have saved millions of lives and improved countless more," Obama said. "So this nation owes all of you an enormous debt of gratitude far greater than any medal can bestow."

The recipients of the awards for 2008 are:

Berni Alder, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, for establishing powerful computer methods useful for molecular dynamic simulations, conceiving and executing experimental shock-wave simulations to obtain properties of fluids and solids at very high pressures, and developing Monte Carlo methods for calculating the properties of matter from first principles, all of which contributed to major achievements in the science of condensed matter.

Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health, for his visionary contributions to the fields of genetics and genomics through the work of his own laboratory and his leadership of multiple international genomics initiatives, including the Human Genome Project.

Joanna Fowler, Brookhaven National Laboratory, for her pioneering work in chemistry involving the synthesis of medical imaging compounds and her innovative applications of these compounds to human neuroscience, which have significantly advanced our understanding of the human brain and brain diseases, including drug addiction.

Elaine Fuchs, The Rockefeller University, for her pioneering use of cell biology and molecular genetics in mice to understand the basis of inherited diseases in humans and her outstanding contributions to our understandings of the biology of skin and its disorders, including her notable investigations of adult skin stem cells, cancers, and genetic syndromes.

James E. Gunn, Princeton University, for his brilliant design of many of the most influential telescopes and instruments in astronomy, and in particular for the crucial role those technological marvels played in the creation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has cataloged 200 million stars, galaxies, and quasars; discovered the most distant known quasars; and probed the epoch of formation of the first stars and galaxies. (See "Lessons learned from Sloan Digital Sky Survey operations," Proc. SPIE 7016, 70160B, 2008)

Rudolf E. Kálmán, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, for his fundamental contributions to modern system theory, which provided rigorous mathematical tools for engineering, [econometrics], and statistics, and in particular for his invention of the "Kálmán filter," which was critical to achieving the Moon landings and creating the Global Positioning System and which has facilitated the use of computers in control and communications technology.

Michael I. Posner, University of Oregon, for his innovative application of technology to the understanding of brain function, his incisive and accurate modeling of functional tasks, and his development of methodological and conceptual tools to help understand the mind and the development of brain networks of attention.

JoAnne Stubbe, MIT, for her groundbreaking experiments establishing the mechanisms of ribonucleotide reductases, polyester synthases, and natural product DNA cleavers -- compelling demonstrations of the power of chemical investigations to solve problems in biology.

J. Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute, for his dedication to the advancement of the science of genomics, his contributions to our understanding of its implications for society, and his commitment to the clear communication of information to the scientific community, the public, and policymakers. (See "Understanding life on this planet in the age of genomics," Proc. SPIE 3111, 306, 1997).

Forrest M. Bird, Percussionaire Corporation, for his pioneering inventions in cardiopulmonary medicine, including the medical respirator; devices that helped launch modern-day medical evacuation capabilities; and intrapulmonary percussive ventilation technologies, which have saved the lives of millions of patients in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other conditions.

Esther Sans Takeuchi, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, for her seminal development of the silver vanadium oxide battery that powers the majority of the world's lifesaving implantable cardiac defibrillators, and her innovations in other medical battery technologies that improve the health and quality of life of millions of people.

John Warnock and Charles Geschke, founders of Adobe Systems Inc., for their pioneering technological contributions that were central to spurring the desktop publishing revolution and for their role in changing the way people create and engage with information and entertainment across multiple mediums including print, video, and the Web.

Samuel Palmisano on behalf of IBM Corp. for the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer and its systems architecture, design, and software, which have delivered fundamental new science, unsurpassed speed, and unparalleled energy efficiency and have had a profound impact worldwide on the high-performance computing industry.

Obama said the United States must continue to invest in "the next generation of discoveries and the next generation of discoverers." Repeating his pledge to put thousands more students in college classrooms, he committed to spending 3 percent of the gross domestic product to educate future scientists and researchers.

Read the transcript of the awards presentation here: http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/10/obama-the-power-of-free-and-open-inquiry-is-at-the-heart-of-america.php