This may seem out of place on a blog that I’ve somewhat deliberately directed in the design vein but…it needs to be done.

On Friday, February 1, President Obama awarded the National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation to 12 researchers and 11 inventors. Innovation is the core of any industry, and I believe that an understanding of what innovations are coming out of any field, is pretty important. Additionally, the reports on who were awarded these medals and what they’ve contributed is surprisingly hard to find. And as much as it saddens me that former President George W. Bush’s dog Barney has passed away, it seems even more of a travesty that the news is, by far, more accessed than who won these medals. I want to take just one post, and focus on the men & women who have made and will continue to make incredible advances in technological innovation.

“If there is one idea that sets this country apart, one idea that makes us different from every other nation on Earth, it’s that here in America, success does not depend on where you were born or what your last name is. Success depends on the ideas that you can dream up, the possibilities that you envision, and the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears you’re willing to put in to make them real.” – President Obama / February 1, 2013

Listed below are the names of those awarded, and beyond the jump, is a short synopsis of their careers and contributions.

National Medal of Science
Dr. Allen Bard, University of Texas at Austin, TX
Dr. Sallie Chisholm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Dr. Sidney Drell, Stanford University, CA
Dr. Sandra Faber, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA
Dr. Sylvester James Gates, University of Maryland, MD
Dr. Solomon Golomb, University of Southern California, CA
Dr. John Goodenough, University of Texas at Austin, TX
Dr. M. Frederick Hawthorne, University of Missouri, MO
Dr. Leroy Hood, Institute for Systems Biology, WA
Dr. Barry Mazur, Harvard University, MA
Dr. Lucy Shapiro, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA
Dr. Anne Treisman, Princeton University, NJ

National Medal of Technology and Innovation
Dr. Frances Arnold, California Institute of Technology, CA
Dr. George Carruthers, U.S. Naval Research Lab, DC
Dr. Robert Langer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Dr. Norman McCombs, AirSep Corporation, NY
Dr. Gholam Peyman, Arizona Retinal Specialists, AZ
Dr. Art Rosenfeld, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, CA
Dr. Jan Vilcek, NYU Langone Medical Center, NY
Dr. Samuel Blum, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
Dr. Rangaswamy Srinivasan, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
Dr. James Wynne, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
Raytheon BBN Technologies, MA

Allen J. Bard. University of Texas, Austin. For contributions in electrochemistry, including electroluminescence, semiconductor photoelectrochemistry, electroanalytical chemistry, and the invention of the scanning electrochemical microscope.

Sallie W. Chisholm. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For contributions to the discovery and understanding of the dominant photosynthetic organisms in the ocean, promotion of the field of microbial oceanography, and influence on marine policy and management.

Sidney D. Drell. Stanford University. For contributions to quantum field theory and quantum chromodynamics, application of science to inform national policies in security and intelligence, and distinguished contributions as an advisor to the United States government. Drell’s career takes focus in Philip Taubman’s new book  The Partnership

Sandra M. Faber. University of California, Santa Cruz. For leadership in numerous path-breaking studies of extra-galactic astronomy and galaxy formation, and for oversight of the construction of important instruments, including the Keck telescopes.

Sylvester “Jim” Gates – awarded the National Medal of Science for 40+ years of teaching and advising the President as a science advisor. Check out Jim explaining string theory in 30 seconds! Officially, “For contributions to the mathematics of supersymmetry in particle, field, and string theories and extraordinary efforts to engage the public on the beauty and wonder of fundamental physics.”

Solomon W. Golomb. University of Southern California. For pioneering work in shift register sequences that changed the course of communications from analog to digital, and for numerous innovations in reliable and secure space, radar, cellular, wireless, and spread-spectrum communications.

John B. Goodenough.  University of Texas, Austin. Officially, “For groundbreaking cathode research that led to the first commercial lithium ion battery, which has since revolutionized consumer electronics with technical applications for portable and stationary power,” but also, I would add, for going through life with a name like “Good En0ugh.”

M. Frederick HawthorneUniversity of Missouri. For highly creative pioneering research in inorganic, organometallic, and medicinal borane chemistry; sustained and profound contributions to scientific and technical advice related to national security; and for effective, prolific, and devoted service to the broad field of chemical sciences.

Leroy Hood. Institute for Systems Biology. For pioneering spirit, passion, vision, inventions, and leadership combined with unique cross-disciplinary approaches resulting in entrepreneurial ventures, transformative commercial products, and several new scientific disciplines that have challenged and transformed the fields of biotechnology, genomics, proteomics, personalized medicine, and science education.

Barry C. Mazur. Harvard University. For original and landmark contributions to differential topology, number theory, and arithmetic algebraic geometry, where, among other applications, his work was fundamental to Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, and for his dedication to communicating subtle mathematical ideas to the broader public.

Lucy Shapiro. Stanford University. For the pioneering discovery that the bacterial cell is controlled by an integrated genetic circuit functioning in time and space that serves as a systems engineering paradigm underlying cell differentiation and ultimately the generation of diversity in all organisms.

Anne M. Treisman. Princeton University. For a 50-year career of penetrating originality and depth that has led to the understanding of fundamental attentional limits in the human mind and brain.

Frances H. Arnold. California Institute of Technology. For pioneering research on biofuels and chemicals that could lead to the replacement of pollution-generating materials.

George Carruthers. U.S. Naval Research Lab. For invention of the Far UV Electrographic Camera, which significantly improved our understanding of space and earth science.

Robert Langer. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For inventions and discoveries that led to the development of controlled drug release systems, engineered tissues, angiogenesis inhibitors, and new biomaterials.

Norman R. McCombs. AirSep Corporation. For the development and commercialization of pressure swing adsorption oxygen-supply systems with a wide range of medical and industrial applications that have led to improved health and substantially reduced health care costs.

Gholam A. Peyman. University of Arizona College of Medicine and Arizona Retinal Specialists. For invention of the LASIK surgical technique, and for developing the field of intraocular drug administration and expanding the field of retinal surgery.

Arthur H. Rosenfeld. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and California Institute for Energy and Environment and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. For extraordinary leadership in the development of energy-efficient building technologies and related standards and policies.

Jan T. Vilcek. New York University School of Medicine. For pioneering work on interferons and key contributions to the development of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

Samuel Blum, Rangaswamy Srinivasan and James Wynne. IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center. For the pioneering discovery of excimer laser ablative photodecomposition of human and animal tissue, laying the foundation for PRK and LASIK, laser refractive surgical techniques that have revolutionized vision enhancement. Note: Though these three had difference scientific backgrounds, it was an experiment with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers that led to their vision correction procedure that has benefited more than 25 million people worldwide.

Raytheon BBN Technologies, Cambridge, Massachusetts. For sustained innovation through the engineering of first-of-a-kind, practical systems in acoustics, signal processing, and information technology.

To be clear, I straight-up copied most of the names and descriptions of the honorees from the White House press site. I have to trust that their interpretation of the sciences is a little more matter-of-fact than mine, though I’ve added commentary where applicable.


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