The National Medal of Science

Established in 1959 as a means of awarding individuals who have made notable contributions to the various fields of sciences, the National Medal of Science is the preeminent award bestowed upon distinguished members of the scientific community.

This is a presidential award that is handed out to nominees who are judged on their merit by a committee of twelve appointees by the president, all of whom have science and engineering backgrounds in fields as diverse and well rounded as the candidates vying for their recognition. Each appointee is chosen by the president to select the official recipients of the Award on an annual basis.

To date, 506 individuals of all scientific disciplines have been awarded the National Medal of Science for excellence in a body of work that has emphasized a strong and diverse record of research and development in their chosen fields.

Nomination Process

In order to be eligible to receive the National Medal of Science there is a specific nomination process that each potential recipient must undertake in order to be considered for the award.

Every year, the National Science Foundation requests submissions of nominees from the scientific community at large. An individual may only be nominated by colleagues within the community and that person's name must come with three separate recommendation letters from those who are currently active within the fields of science and technology.

The list of qualifying names is then sent to the Committee of the National Medal of Science, which includes the twelve presidential appointees along with the president of the National Academy of Science and the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be considered for the award, nominees must comply with a list of guidelines that the committee takes into account as they determine who should be deemed eligible.

These are some of the critical guidelines that must be met to be considered as a potential National Medal of Science recipient:

A nominee must be a citizen of the United States or a permanent resident who has applied for U.S. citizenship. The candidate must have also demonstrated a significant impact on their particular scientific discipline through education, research, or any number of other avenues within their field.

Candidates may not nominate themselves nor can they be nominated by members of their immediate family. A nomination is active for a period of two years after the initial year of the nomination has expired, for a total of three years. Once that period has expired, the candidate may be put up for nomination once again, as long as that individual still meets all of the requirements of eligibility.

Any nominees who have won a Nobel Prize are eligible to receive the National Medal of Science, however, the former award will offer no advantage in the decision of the committee. These individuals are judged by the same criteria as candidates who have not won the Nobel Prize.

A nominee who has since deceased will remain eligible to receive the award for a period up until the fifth anniversary of the date of death.

Should a nominee comply with all of the eligibility guidelines, the committee will submit the names they feel deserve the award to the president who then tenders a final decision on naming that year's recipients.

The president will select those nominees who have proven themselves worthy of acknowledgment for individual achievements and expertise in certain scientific disciplines that include biological, engineering, mathematical, social and behavioral, or physical science. These contributions must also be considered beneficial in some capacity towards the advancement of these fields and offer others some form of inspirational or knowledgeable foundation for further study and innovation.

As one might expect, there are far more nominations offered than recipients of an award. Therefore, the strongest nominees reflect all of these values and make a greater impact beyond merely his or her field of study. Winning candidates will also demonstrate an ability to reach further in their accomplishments by offering some kind of positive influential effect on the nation as a whole.

The Medallion

Perhaps one of the most recognizable presidential awards offered, the National Medal of Science has a distinctive appearance that is intended to combine the artistic and the thought provoking with an image that defines mankind's existence.

The medal portrays the symbol of Man with a collection of metaphorical images that depict the various sciences. He is encompassed by the sea, the sky, and the earth, kneeling in a contemplative manner as he regards a crystal in his hand, creating a sketch in the ground by his side. The crystal is meant to imply the balance of the universe and our place within. The sketch at his side is a demonstration of scientific wonder and thought.

This imagery was sculpted by renowned medal artist, Donald DeLue, best known for his many sculptures depicting Omaha Beach at Normandy and the Boy Scout Commemorative Memorial at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. But the original concept for the design was created by Richard H. Bolt, an associate director of planning for the National Science Foundation. Bolt's background in fine arts made him the ideal choice to create the proposal for the medallion's aesthetic.

The final design of Holt's was given full approval under executive order #10910 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961. This order also outlined the basic principles governing the requirements for issuing the award, such as the stipulations regarding U.S. citizenship, posthumous issuance, and a restriction of no more than twenty recipients in any calendar year over the many different sciences in which individuals may be awarded a medal.

The National Medal of Science is the gold standard for remarkable excellence and achievement in the fields of science and technology. Past recipients are a veritable who's who of the most influential names in the scientific community past and present, such as Shirley Ann Jackson, Thomas Eisner, Elizabeth F. Neufeld, John D. Baldeschwieler, Ralph F. Hirschmann, and Theodore von Karman.

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Our craftspeople work with you on every detail to help you create a medal that is unique and special to your organization.

If you can imagine it, Medallic Art's artisans can create it.

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