NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences

NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences

About the NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences

Established by the NAS Council in October 2008 by combining two awards: The Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal established by a gift of Mrs. Mary Vaux Walcott in memory of her husband, Charles Doolittle Walcott, and the Stanley Miller Medal established through a bequest from NAS member Stanley Miller. The award rotates presentation between the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal for research on Cambrian or pre-Cambrian life, and the Stanley Miller Medal which recognizes research on Earth's early development as a planet, including prebiotic chemistry and the origin of life; planetary accretion, differentiation, and tectonics; and early evolution of the atmosphere and oceans. Each medal is presented with a $10,000 prize.

About the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal

The Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal is presented to encourage and reward individual achievement in advancing our knowledge of Cambrian or pre-Cambrian life and its history in any part of the world.

Most Recent Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal Recipient

J. William Schopf, Distinguished Professor of Paleobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, is the recipient of the NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences, presented this year with the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal. Schopf is being honored for his studies of the microscopic fossils that represent the earliest forms of life on the earth and for his generous and inspirational leadership of large, collaborative research groups. These “Precambrian Paleobiology Research Groups” brought together scientists from multiple scientific disciplines and focused their efforts to yield new ideas and information. Their work has stimulated countless further studies of the earliest history of life on earth.

About the Stanley Miller Medal

The Stanley Miller Medal was established upon bequest of Stanley L. Miller in 2007. Miller is best known for his groundbreaking work in the Miller-Urey Experiment. In the experiment, Miller combined gasses believed to be present in the early Earth’s atmosphere into a closed environment. To simulate the electrical charges emitted by lighting during Earth’s youth, Miller pumped a continuous electrical current through the gasses. After one week of emitting the electrical current, 10-15% of the carbon contained in the simulated atmosphere formed into organic compounds and 2% of the compounds formed into amino acids, clearly demonstrating the ability of organic compounds to form under Earth’s early atmospheric conditions. While criticisms now exist as to how accurately Miller’s experiment emulated Earth’s early atmospheric conditions, Miller’s findings still provide invaluable insight into the formation of essential organic compounds.

Most Recent Stanley Miller Medal Recipient

Norman R. Pace, University of Colorado, received the 2019 Stanley Miller Medal.

Pace, known as the father of microbial ecology, has made groundbreaking discoveries into the study of RNA, and through it life on earth. Pace first began studying RNA structure and function. He participated in the discovery of the catalytic activity of RNAs, which contributed to our understanding of early life on Earth. 
Read more about his work»
Watch his acceptance speech»


Norman R. Pace (2019, Stanley Miller Medal)
For his seminal contributions to the discovery of catalytic RNAs and his pioneering work on methods for delineating the diversity of life on Earth.
Read more about Pace's work» 
Watch Pace's acceptance speech»

James F. Kasting (2016, Stanley Miller Medal)
For his outstanding modelling studies of planetary atmospheres and habitability that constrain the environmental context for the origin of life.
Read more about Kasting's work»

J. William Schopf (2013, Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal)
For his pioneering studies of Precambrian microfossils and for his generous and inspirational leadership of the Precambrian Paleobiology Research Groups.

Gerald F. Joyce (2010, Stanley Miller Medal)
For his pioneering experiments on the self-sustained replication and evolution of RNA enzymes (ribozymes), which illuminate key conceptual steps in the origin of life.

Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal Recipients: 1934-2007

John P. Grotzinger (2007)
For the insightful elucidation of ancient carbonates and the stromatolites they contain, and for meticulous field research that has established the timing of early animal evolution.

Hans J. Hofmann (2002)
For his pioneering discoveries of fossils that have illuminated life's early evolution, from Archean stromatolites and Proterozoic cyanobacteria, to the rise of multicellular organisms.

Mikhail A. Fedonkin (1997)
For his meticulous and insightful documentation of the body fossils, tracks, and trails that record the earliest evolution of animals.

Stefan Bengtson (1992)
For his leadership in studies of the enigmatic faunas of the Cambrian radiation, evidence for a major evolutionary event that his meticulous research has illuminated.

Andrew H. Knoll and Simon C. Morris (1987)
For their meticulous and insightful research on plant evolution from its microbial roots to vascularization, especially during the transition from Proterozoic to Phanerozoic.

Martin F. Glaessner (1982)
For his perceptive, worldwide biological and paleoecological analyses of the earliest Metazoa, which have extended over a quarter century and have illuminated the beginnings of Phanerozoic evolution.

Preston Cloud (1977)
In recognition of eminence and distinguished achievement in the advancement of sciences in pre-Cambrian paleontology and the early history of life on the primitive earth.

Elso S. Barghoorn (1972)
For his outstanding contributions in pre-Cambrian paleobiology.

Allison R. Palmer (1967)
For his research in pre-Cambrian or Cambrian life, in recognition of his eminence as a specialist in the studies of the Cambrian.

Armin A. Opik (1962)
For his contributions to Cambrian geology and paleontology.

Pierre Hupe (1957)
For his monumental work entitiled Contribution a l'etude du Cambrien inferieur et du Precambrien III de l'Antiatlas marocain.

Franco Rasetti (1952)
For his contributions to Cambrian paleontology.

Alexander G. Vologdin (1947)
For his studies of Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian algae and his researches on the Archaeocyatha, a distinctive group of Cambrian organisms.

A. H. Westergaard (1939)
For researches on the stratigraphy and paleontology of the Cambrian formations of Sweden.

David L. White (1934)


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