Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the National Medal of Science Awards

May 24, 1983

The President. It's a privilege for me today to play a part in honoring 12 Americans who've made outstanding contributions to our way of life through science and engineering. And as I read over the list of their activities, I'm impressed not only by the profound intellectual achievements that are represented but also by the wide range of their expertise. We have before us leaders in the fields of physics, biology, agriculture, chemistry, aircraft design, engineering, and mathematics. It's a testimony to the strength of American science and engineering that we have such men and women whose genius is acknowledged not only in this country but around the world.

It's fitting that we're taking special care to honor the recipients of the National Medal of Science award at a time when our technological leadership is being challenged from abroad. In the past, too many Americans tended to take our preeminence in science and engineering for granted. We must never forget that what we enjoy now is the result of superior professionals like those that we're honoring. And today, as never before, these individuals have international competition.

I would hope that today's event does not go unnoticed by America's young people and that many of them will be encouraged to emulate the example of these distinguished citizens. We as a nation cannot rest on our laurels in this vital area of concern, and American young people need to know their well-being depends on our continued progress in science and technology. Only by excellence in this vital area can we hope to maintain technological momentum—momentum so essential to our freedom and our prosperity.

As I went through the briefing papers about today's recipients, something else struck me. Among those we honor today are some who were not born in this country, but are naturalized citizens. And it's a tribute to our society that creative and diligent men and women like these have chosen America as their adopted land and have found here fertile soil for their talent. Many scientists and engineers come to us from places where repression stifles creativity, chokes off opportunity for expression and development. America has gained so much by the infusion of such talent, and today all our citizens are better off because of it.

So, let me express again the gratitude of the American people to all of you that we honor today with this medal. We deeply appreciate what you've done. We thank you.

And now my science adviser, Jay Keyworth, will read the citations for the awards. And I'll go over here. [Laughter]

Mr. Keyworth. First we'll begin with the biological sciences. Seymour Benzer for elucidating the fine structure of the gene and unifying the classical and molecular concepts of gene structure and function.

Glenn W. Burton for outstanding contributions to the biological sciences that have helped to feed the hungry, protect and beautify the environment, and provide recreation for millions.

Now, Mildred Cohn for pioneering the use of stable isotopic tracers and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the study of the mechanism of enzymatic catalysis.

Now, in chemistry, Albert Cotton for contributions of unique range, depth and importance to inorganic and structural chemistry, especially the discovery and elucidation of multiple metal-metal bonds and the application of group theory to chemical problems.

Gilbert Stork for his contributions as one of the world's most innovative and productive synthetic organic chemists, whose discoveries have made possible the synthesis of some of the most complicated and important biologically active compounds.

In the engineering sciences, Edward H. Heinemann for his outstanding contribution as a creator-designer and engineer responsible for the design and production of a series of famous aircraft for the military forces of the United States and allied nations.

Donald L. Katz for solving many practical chemical and petroleum engineering problems by delving into a wide group of sciences and making their synergistic effects evident.

In the physical sciences, Philip W. Anderson for his fundamental and comprehensive contributions to the theoretical understanding of condensed matter, most notably his work on electron localization in highly disordered solids and the nature of localized magnetic states in metals.

Yoichiro Nambu, for his seminal contributions to the understanding of elementary particles and their interactions.

Edward Teller, for his outstanding contributions to molecular physics, understanding the origin of stellar energy, the theory and application of fusion reactions, the field of nuclear safety, and for his continued leadership in science and technology.

Charles H. Townes, for fundamental contributions to the understanding of matter through its interaction with electromagnetic radiation and the application of this knowledge to the service of mankind, most notably in leading to the invention of the maser and the laser.

The 12th medal recipient is unable to be with us today, but his citation reads: "Marshall H. Stone, for his original synthesis of analysis, algebra, and topology into the new, vital area of functional analysis in modern mathematics."

The President. Having just come, the last weekend, from speaking at a graduation and, now, here—and standing before all these eminent experts in their fields—I face you with mixed emotions and a greatly compounded feeling of guilt for much of 4 years that I wasted in my own college days. [Laughter]

But God bless all of you, and thank all of you for what you have done for the world and for all of us. And thank all of you ladies and gentlemen.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the National Medal of Science Awards Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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