President Barack Obama awarded the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 people today, including two scientists. Geneticist Janet Davison Rowley of the University of Chicago identified a chromosomal translocation as a cause of leukemia. In lauding Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University for his work in theoretical physics, Obama got a few chuckles.
Citations after the jump.
Dr. Janet Davison Rowley was the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers - considered among the most important medical breakthroughs of the past century. After enrolling at the University of Chicago at age 15, she went on to challenge the conventional medical wisdom about the cause of cancer in the 1970s, which had placed little emphasis on chromosomal abnormalities. Her work has proven enormously influential to researchers worldwide who have used her discovery to identify genes that cause fatal cancers and to develop targeted therapies that have revolutionized cancer care. The United States honors this distinguished scientist for advancing genetic research and the understanding of our most devastating diseases.
Persistent in his pursuit of knowledge, Stephen Hawking has unlocked new pathways of discovery and inspired people around the world. He has dedicated his life to exploring the fundamental laws that govern the universe, and he has contributed to some of the greatest scientific discoveries of our time. His work has stirred the imagination of experts and lay persons alike. Living with a disability and possessing an uncommon ease of spirit, Stephen Hawking's attitude and achievements inspire hope, intellectual curiosity, and respect for the tremendous power of science.