Washington, D.C.--A biologist who grafted a third branch onto the tree of life and an astrophysicist who helped launch the search for the universe's missing "dark matter" are among 16 winners of the National Medals of Science and Technology announced today by President Bill Clinton. The winners will pick up their hardware at a 1 December ceremony here.
Until a few decades ago, most biologists assumed that all life was divided into plants and animals. But in 1977, Carl Woese of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, shook the foundations of biology by announcing his discovery of a third group: the Archaea, one-celled organisms so different from all other living things, including bacteria, that they deserved their own branch on life's tree. Many biologists initially rejected the idea. "That's what happens when you break a paradigm; people scoff, they don't treat you seriously," Woese told Science 3 years ago (Science, 2 May 1997, p. 699). Most of the skeptics were eventually won over.
Astronomer Jeremiah Ostriker of Princeton University has made significant contributions to understanding everything from the nature of pulsars to the size of the galaxies. In a prominent paper, co-authored in 1974 with Princeton's James Peebles, the pair suggested that the universe contained much more mass than had been detected. They speculated that the missing mass might be in the huge haloes of nearly invisible "dark matter" surrounding galaxies, launching a search that continues today.
Other winners of the medals, established by Congress to honor exceptional researchers, are:
- Economist Gary Becker, University of Chicago, for the economic analysis of racial discrimination.
- Neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, for joining behavioral science with the technologies of neuroscience and neuroimaging.
- Ecologist Peter H. Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University, for his work on conservation, plant systematics, and evolution.
- Chemist John D. Baldeschwieler, California Institute of Technology, for work on molecular assemblies and ion cyclotron resonance spectroscopy.
- Chemist Ralph F. Hirschmann, University of Pennsylvania, for work leading to life-saving medicines.
- Engineer Yuan-Cheng B. Fung, University of California, San Diego, for contributions to aerospace engineering and biomechanics.
- Mathematician John Griggs Thompson, University of Florida, Gainesville, considered to be one of the foremost group theorists of all time.
- Mathematician Karen K. Uhlenbeck, University of Texas, Austin, for pioneering contributions to global analysis and gauge theory.
- Physicist Willis E. Lamb, University of Arizona, Tucson, for work on hydrogen that revealed a new relativistic quantum effect.
- Geomorphologist Gilbert F. White, University of Colorado, Boulder, for his approaches to using nonstructural means to reduce damage from flooding.
- Computer scientist Douglas C. Engelbart, Bootstrap Institute, for creating the foundations of personal computing including the mouse and hypertext.
- Medical technologist Dean Kamen, DEKA Research & Development Corp., for inventions that have advanced medical care worldwide.
- Fiber-optics researchers Donald B. Keck and Robert D. Maurer, Corning Inc., and Peter C. Schultz, Heraeus Amersil Inc., for the invention of low-loss optical fiber.
- The IBM Corp., for 40 years of innovations in the technology of hard disk drives and information storage.