Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Presentation of the National Medal of Science Awards for 1968.

January 17, 1969

Mr. Vice President, Dr. Hornig, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Congress, Medalists, distinguished guests:

I was delayed a short time because of the stimulating conversation I was having with a man who has made a great contribution to science, the new Secretary of Agriculture, who is with us this morning, Dr. Hardin. Dr. Hardin would you please stand and take a bow.

It was a century ago that Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, stated that modern civilization "depends on science... Science is the pursuit above all which impresses us with the capacity of man for intellectual and moral progress."

We have known these truths since Benjamin Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society in 1743. And over the several hundred years following, we thought we did pretty well in some areas of science and its application. I suppose the major areas of achievement then were in agriculture and perhaps transportation.

Still and all, this country entered World War II without a well-established reputation in science. I think all of us can be proud of how things have changed for the better since then. Science is knowledge, and knowledge knows no national boundaries, but achievements in science can still be identified with the societies which made them possible.

Just last week in this very room, it was my great privilege and high honor, as President, to honor the three great young men, the American astronauts, who went to the moon and back.

We have also solved some of the fiddles of heredity and have done research on the cells of the body which we hope may some day provide us with a cure for cancer.

Our astronomers and our high energy physicists have learned very extraordinary things about the most distant parts of the universe and about its tiniest building blocks. Our engineers and our architects have built many of the world's finest buildings, bridges, ships, and aircraft.

There is greatness in these achievements. And so we have come here today, to this room, to honor some of the very best of those who have made these achievements possible. All of us have stood on the shoulders of the giants of the past, but these men today will be remembered as the giants of today.

We cannot deceive ourselves, and we must not deceive ourselves that we have found the best ways of doing things yet. We must just never permit our methods, however successful, to ever harden and to freeze our new ideas and our new approaches to things.

You who are receiving this award today have done your best and you have earned your country's praise and your country's recognition.

But I think you know, perhaps better than the rest of us do, that there is so much yet undone.

I just cannot refrain from telling you this story, because it applies to nearly everything I am doing these last few days in office. It is said that Prime Minister Churchill, in the concluding period of World War II, was visited by a group of ladies belonging to the Temperance League to protest the Prime Minister's drinking habits.

One of the little ladies who was chairman of the committee, in her tennis shoes, said: "Mr. Prime Minister, we are informed that if all the alcohol, the brandy, that you have consumed during World War II were emptied in this room, it would come up to about here."

The Prime Minister looked at the floor and then looked at the high ceiling and looked at the relative example that the little lady had used. And he said graciously: "My dear little lady, so little have I done; so much I have yet to do."

So I would say even to you great leaders in this great field: "So little have we done; so much we have yet to do."

This medal must symbolize the accomplishments of the past only as our foundation for the future.

It is a great privilege to have you here. Thank you.

[At this point Dr. Donald F. Hornig spoke. Following his remarks, the President resumed speaking.]

I want to express my appreciation to the distinguished, overworked Members of Congress who honor us with their presence here this morning, and particularly to the outstanding members of the scientific community who have come here to share this day with the recipients of this very high honor.

We are very happy to see several members of our Cabinet. Dr. Seaborg and Dr. Haworth are also present.

Since this will perhaps be the last official meeting that we will have to distribute medals in this room, I hope I may be pardoned if I can pin my own "Presidential medal" on some of the guests here this morning to kind of accompany this ceremony with you.

I have just completed the last conference with every member of President Nixon's Cabinet. I found it highly interesting, and I think very profitable. I look forward to the work that they will do in the years ahead for all of us.

But as we look forward to the future, we must also look back to some of the things of the past.

I had planned to have three people here this morning to award very special recognition by asking them to rise and meet you. But we had an unfortunate situation develop last night in the Senate, where my grandson, whom I wanted to recognize, got a hold of Senator Dirksen's glasses. He has been barred from the East Room for the rest of this administration by Mrs. Johnson. So I cannot recognize one of the three that I had planned to recognize.

I do want to ask Mrs. Johnson to stand and present her as one of the recipients of a "Presidential award."

While almost every American citizen really believes that this house belongs to all the people, this room can never be entered without my getting clearance from her. So I want to thank her for making this ceremony possible.

The next person who has been at my side all through my Presidency and who has been with me in both sunshine and sorrow, always faithful and always dedicated to doing the greatest good for the greatest number, is our distinguished Vice President--Vice President Humphrey.

Now, these two awards that I have made have not gone to the people who have spent time in the laboratory, who have brought about some of the world-shaking discoveries that you distinguished men have. But they do have some familiarity with another science known as political science, and at least they are going to be my counselors in the days ahead.

So, I thank all of you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice President of the United States, and Dr. Donald F. Hornig, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology, who opened the ceremony and introduced the award winners. His remarks are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, pp. 120, 121).

During his remarks the President referred to Dr. Clifford M. Hardin, Secretary of Agriculture designate, the awards presented to the Apollo 8 astronauts (see Item 662), Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Leland J. Haworth, Director of the National Science Foundation, Patrick Lyndon Nugent, the President's grandson, and Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, Minority Leader of the Senate.

The National Medal of Science, the Federal Government's highest award for distinguished achievement in science, was established by Congress in 1959 (73 Stat. 431) and is awarded on the basis of recommendations by the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science, a group of distinguished scientists whose chairman for 1967-68 was Dr. Bryce L. Crawford of the University of Minnesota. The 1968 recipients and their citations, as announced by the White House on January 2, are listed below:

Biological Sciences: Horace A. Barker, professor of biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, "For his profound study of the chemical activities of micro-organisms, including the unraveling of fatty acid metabolism and the discovery of the active coenzyme form of vitamin B12"; Bernard B. Brodie, Chief, Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology, National Institutes of Health, "For pioneering new qualitative concepts which have revolutionized the development, the study, and the effective use of therapeutic agents in the treatment of human disease"; Detlev W. Bronk, president emeritus, Rockefeller University, "For his highly original research in the field of physiology and for his manifold contributions to the advance of science and its institution in the service of society"; Jay L. Lush, professor of animal breeding, Iowa State University, "For bringing the science of genetics to bear upon animal breeding, and thus helping to remould the flocks and herds of America and Western Europe"; B. Frederic Skinner, professor of psychology, Harvard University, "For basic and imaginative contributions to the study of behavior which have had profound influence upon all psychology and many related areas."

Engineering Sciences: J. Presper Eckert, vice president, UNIVAC Division, Sperry Rand Corp., "For pioneering and continuing contributions in creating, developing, and improving the high-speed electronic digital computer"; Nathan M. Newmark, professor of civil engineering, University of Illinois, "For contributions to the development of powerful and widely used methods for analyzing complex structural components and assemblies under a variety of conditions of loading."

Mathematical Sciences: Jerzy Neyman, professor of mathematics, University of California, Berkeley, "For laying the foundations of modern statistics and devising tests and procedure that have become essential parts of the knowledge of every statistician."

Physical Sciences: Paul D. Bartlett, professor of chemistry, Harvard University, "For his leadership in advancing our understanding of the mechanisms by which chemical reactions take place, and for his success in training young teachers and researchers"; Herbert Friedman, Superintendent, Atmosphere and Astrophysics Division, Naval Research Laboratory, "For pioneering work in rocket and satellite astronomy and in particular for his contributions to the field of gamma ray astronomy"; Lars Onsager, professor of chemistry, Yale University, "For a brilliant variety of seminal contributions to the understanding of electrolytes and other chemical systems, especially to the thermodynamics of systems in change"; Eugene P. Wigner, professor of mathematical physics, Princeton University, "For his many unique innovations in the physical, mathematical, engineering sciences ranging from quantum chemistry to nuclear theory and from reactor engineering to civil defense."

A later list (5 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 122) gives further details concerning the scientific contribution of each award winner.

For remarks of the President upon presenting the 1967 National Medal of Science awards, see Item 71.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Presentation of the National Medal of Science Awards for 1968. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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