Since 1886, the National Academy of Sciences has honored outstanding achievement in the physical, biological, and social sciences through its awards program.


  • Video Online - Awards Ceremony
    Watch the recorded webcast of the Awards Ceremony from the 151st Annual Meeting honoring the 2014 NAS award recipients. Read More 

  • NAS Receives $1.5 Million Gift to Establish New Award in the Physical Sciences
    Research Corporation for Science Advancement has made a gift of $1.5 million to the National Academy of Sciences to establish the National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Discovery in honor of RCSA's past president John P. Schaefer. This new $100,000 prize will be given biennially to recognize an accomplishment or discovery in basic research within the past five years. The fields of science for each presentation will rotate from among chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, astronomy, physics, and materials science, with the inaugural award presented in 2015 for a recent discovery in chemistry, biochemistry, or biophysics. Read More 

Featured Award

J. Lawrence Smith Medal

The J. Lawrence Smith Medal is awarded every three years for investigations of meteoric bodies. The award carries with it a gold-plated bronze medal and a $50,000 prize. J. Lawrence Smith was a world-renowned American chemist. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and served as president of both the American Chemistry Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He invented, and later perfected, an inverted microscope, where chemical reactions on the slide being examined are kept well away from any sensitive optics.

Smith began collecting meteorites in the early 1850s. By 1880 he had again amassed a collection containing material from over 250 falls containing 896,357 gm of irons and 86,398 gm of stones. Harvard University purchased his collection for $8,000. In 1883, Smith’s widow, Sarah Julia Smith, donated these funds to the National Academy of Sciences to establish the J. Lawrence Smith Medal.

Pictured left to right: NAS President Ralph Cicerone, Harry Y. McSween Jr. and Edward Stolper

The J. Lawrence Smith Medal was first awarded in 1888 to Hubert Anson Newton. Newton was a mathematician and astronomer who determined the orbits of meteors and comets, as well as the influence of planets on these orbits. Newton was a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the first researchers to use photography in his records of meteorological observations.

The most recent J. Lawrence Smith medal was presented in April, 2012 to Harry Y. McSween Jr. McSween’s research characterizes the mineralogy, petrology, and cosmochemistry of chondrites, the most common type of meteorites falling to Earth, shergottites and nakhlites, generally accepted to be rocks from Mars, and eucrites, diogenites, and howardites, igneous rocks from a differentiated asteroid. McSween is co-investigator for the Mars Odyssey spacecraft mission, which is mapping the mineralogy and geochemistry of the Martian surface from orbit, the Mars Exploration Rovers which have analyzed rocks and soils at two landing sites, and the Dawn spacecraft mission, which began orbiting asteroid Vesta in 2011 and will subsequently explore Ceres, the largest asteroid.

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