APS News

U.S. National Medal Winners include Past APS Presidents

Two former presidents of APS were among the United States’ top science and engineering prizes. Burton Richter of Stanford will receive the National Medal of Science and Cherry Murray of Harvard University will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

October 9, 2014  |  Michael Lucibella

Burton Richter and Cherry Murray
Photo: SLAC (left), Harvard University (right)

Burton Richter and Cherry Murray

“These scholars and innovators have expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields, and helped improve countless lives,” President Obama said in a statement. “Our nation has been enriched by their achievements, and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry, and invention.”

The awards are presented every year to about a dozen of the nation’s top scientists and inventors. They honor researchers who have made significant contributions to the understanding of science or who have over their lifetimes helped improve America’s competitiveness and Americans’ quality of life. The science medal is administered by the National Science Foundation; the Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office is in charge of the medal for technology and innovation.

Richter started out in the field of high-energy physics and worked for years as the technical director and later laboratory director of SLAC. In 1976 he shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Samuel C. C. Ting for the co-discovery of the j/psi particle. In recent years, he has turned his attention to energy issues, recently authoring the book Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century. He served as APS president in 1994.

Murray started her career at Bell Laboratories as a researcher, working her way up to senior vice president for physical sciences and wireless research, before going to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to serve as principal associate director for science and technology. She left Livermore to take the position of dean of Harvard’s school of engineering and applied sciences. Her wide-ranging research has focused on light scattering, soft condensed matter, and complex fluids. Murray served as APS president in 2009.

Murray and Richter will receive their medals along with the other eight recipients at a White House ceremony likely later this year.