NAS Award in the Evolution of Earth and Life

NAS Award in the Evolution of Earth and Life

About the NAS Award in the Evolution of Earth and Life

Established by the NAS Council in June 2017 by combining two awards: the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal and the Mary Clark Thompson Medal. The award rotates presentation between the Elliot Medal that recognizes meritorious work in zoology or paleontology published no earlier than the last presentation of the medal (2018), and the Thompson Medal that honors important services to geology and paleontology. 

Each medal is presented with a $20,000 prize.

About the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal

Established through the Daniel Giraud Elliot Fund by gift of Miss Margaret Henderson Elliot. First awarded in 1917 to Frank M. Chapman, the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal has recognized the most prestigious zoologists and paleontologists over the past 90 years. Two-time Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal recipient, George Simpson proceeded to win the National Medal of Science in Biological Sciences. John Northrop received the Elliot Medal in 1939 before receiving the 1965 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Most Recent Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal Recipient

Günter Wagner, Yale University, received the 2018 Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal. Wagner has made a lifetime of fundamental contributions to the integration of developmental and evolutionary biology, most recently and most notably his 2014 book “Homology, Genes and Evolutionary Innovation,” which addresses a question that has persisted since the time of Charles Darwin, namely the origin of evolutionary novelties, or how new or original traits emerge in organisms. In the book—constructed like Darwin’s “Origin of Species” as “one long argument”—Wagner advances a model as to how organisms rapidly evolved novel characteristics or innovations, such as feather or flowers. To accomplish this, Wagner’s book makes two primary claims: First, that novelty is a process that generates newly individuated morphologic characters; and second, that these novel characters are generated by recursively wired gene regulatory subnetworks, which Wagner first described in 2007 as “character identity networks.” Read more about Wagner's work»

About the Mary Clark Thompson Medal

The Mary Clark Thompson Medal was established in 1919 by a gift from Mary Clark Thompson to honor important services to geology and paleontology. 

Most Recent Mary Clark Thompson Recipient

Susan M. Kidwell, University of Chicago, received the 2015 Mary Clark Thompson Medal. Scientists have long considered the world’s fossils to be an incomplete chronicle of the past. Kidwell combined geological fieldwork, experiments in the lab and measurements in modern environments to investigate how the fossil record is formed and how to best use it to understand the past and anticipate the future of today’s biodiversity. Kidwell's research has fostered a new field of science, conservation paleobiology, which uses the youngest part of the fossil record to determine the baseline condition of ecosystems and evaluate the effects humans have had on biodiversity. Read more about Kidwell's work»


Günter Wagner (2018, Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal)
For his fundamental contributions to the integration of developmental and evolutionary biology, including his rich and penetrating book "Homology, Genes and Evolutionary Innovation", which will orient research in evolutionary developmental biology for decades to come. 
Read more about Wagner's work» 
Watch Wagner's acceptance speech»

Susan M. Kidwell (2015, Mary Clark Thompson Medal)
For her groundbreaking work on fossil preservation that has transformed our view of how the history of life is encoded in the rock record. Her studies have revealed the fidelity of the fossil record, and thereby have yielded powerful insights to the evolution and ecology of ancient life on Earth.
Read more about Kidwell's work»

Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal Recipients: 1917-2012

Jonathan B. Losos (2012)
For his novel and penetrating studies of adaptive radiation in vertebrates, notably his comprehensive study of Anolis lizards in tropical America, as summarized in his recent book, "Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree: Ecology and Adaptive Radiation of Anoles".

Jennifer A. Clack (2008)
For studies of the first terrestrial vertebrates and the water-to-land transition, as illuminated in her book "Gaining Ground".

Rudolf A. Raff (2004)
For creative accomplishments in research, teaching, and writing (especially "The Shape of Life") that led to the establishment of a new field, evolutionary developmental biology. 

Geerat J. Vermeij (2000)
For his extracting major generalizations about biological evolution from the fossil record, by feeling details of shell anatomy that other scientists only see.

John Terborgh (1996)
For his research on the ecology, sociobiology, biodiversity, and plant phenology of the tropics, and for his 1992 book, "Diversity and the Tropical Rain Forest".

George C. Williams (1992)
For his seminal contributions to current evolutionary thought, including the importance of natural selection and adaptation, and the understanding of sexual reproduction, social behavior, senescence, and disease.

Jon Edward Ahlquist and Charles G. Sibley (1988)
For their application of DNA hybridization techniques to bird classification which revolutionized taxonomy by showing at last how to distinguish evolutionary relationships from convergent similarities.

G. Evelyn Hutchinson (1984)
For his work as a limologist, biochemist, ecologist, evolutionist, art historian, ranking among our zoological giants.

G. Arthur Cooper and Richard E. Grant (1979)
For the six-volume treatise on the taxonomy, paleoecology, and evolutionary significance of the West Texas permian brachiopods.

Howard E. Evans (1976)
For his work over a 25-year span on the biology and evolution of behavior in wasps.

Richard Alexander (1971)
For his outstanding fundamental work on the systematic, evolution, and behavior of crickets.

Ernst Mayr (1967)
For his treatise, "Animal Species and Evolution".

George G. Simpson (1965)
For his treatise, "Principles of Animal Taxonomy."

Donald R. Griffin (1958)

P. Jackson Darlington, Jr. (1957)
For his work on Zoogeography: The Geographical Distribution of Animals was the most meritorious work in zoology published during the year.

Alfred S. Romer (1956)

Herbert Friedmann (1955)
For his book, "The Honey Guides." Dr. Friedman's studies of this little-known African bird clarified several puzzling problems concerning it.

Sven P. Ekman (1953)

Archie Fairly Carr (1952)

Libbie H. Hyman (1951)

Raymond Carroll Osburn (1950)
In recognition of his studies of Bryozoa, particularly for the volume on Bryozoa of the Pacific Coast of America, part 1, published by the University of Southern California.

Arthur Cleveland Bent (1949)
For the 17th volume in his series on the "Life Histories of the North American Birds," published by the United States National Museum.

Henry B. Bigelow (1948)
For his contributions to marine zoology, particularly for his part as senior author in the volume "Fishes of the Western North Atlantic."

John T. Patterson (1947)

Robert Broom (1946)
For his volume, "The South Africa Fossil Ape-Men, The Australopithecinae," which was published on January 31, 1946, by the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria.

Sewall Wright (1945)
For his fundamental work dealing with the genetics of evolutionary processes--a program based on work over a long period, including his paper "The Differential Equation of the Distribution of Gene Frequencies."

George G. Simpson (1944)
For his work, "Tempo and Mode in Evolution," Columbia University Press, 1944.

Karl S. Lashley (1943)
For his work, "Studies of Cerebral Function in Learning," Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1943, volume 79.

D'arcy Thompson (1942)
For his work, On Growth and Form, revised and enlarged, 1942.

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1941)
For his work, "Genetics and the Origin of Species," second edition published in 1941.

William B. Scott (1940)
For his work, "The Mammalian Fauna of the White River Oligocene. Part IV. Artiodactyia."

John H. Northrop (1939)
For his work, "Crystalline Enzymes: The Chemistry of Pepsin, Trypsin, and Bacteriophage."

M. R. Irwin (1938)
For his work, "Immunogenetic Studies of Species Relationships in Columbidae."

George Howard Parker (1937)
For his work "Do Melanophore Nerves Show Antidromic Responses?" Journal of General Physiology, volume 20, July 1937.

Robert C. Murphy (1936)

Edwin H. Colbert (1935)

Theophilus S. Painter (1934)

Richard Swann Lull (1933)

James P. Chapin (1932)
For his work entitled, "The Birds of the Belgian Congo, Part I,published as a bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History in 1932.

Davidson Black (1931)

George E. Coghill (1930)
For his work entitled "Correlated Anatomical and Physiological Studies of the Growth of the Nervous System of Amphibia."

Henry F. Osborn (1929)

Ernest Thompson Seton (1928)
For his work, "Lives of Game Animals," Volume 4.

Erik A. Stenio (1926)
For his work, "The Downtonian and Devonian Vertebrates of Spitzbergen, Part I."

Edmund B. Wilson (1925)
For his volume, "The Cell in Development and Heredity."

Henri Breuil (1924)

Ferdinand Canu (1923)
For his work, "North American Later Tertiary and Quaternary Bryozoa."

William M. Wheeler (1922)
For his work in entomology, "Ants of the American Museum Congo Expedition."

Bashford Dean (1921)
For his volume in ichthyology, "Bibliography of Fishes."

Othenio Abel (1920)

Robert Ridgway (1919)
For his classic work, "Birds of North and Middle America."

William Beebe (1918)

Frank M. Chapman (1917)

Mary Clark Thompson Medal Recipients: 1921-2015

Susan M. Kidwell (2015)
For her groundbreaking work on fossil preservation that has transformed our view of how the history of life is encoded in the rock record. Her studies have revealed the fidelity of the fossil record, and thereby have yielded powerful insights to the evolution and ecology of ancient life on Earth.
Read more about Kidwell's work»

Andrew H. Knoll (2012)
For unparalleled contributions relating Precambrian life to Earth’s physical and chemical history and for innovative contributions on the paleophysiology and evolution of algae and land plants.

Alfred G. Fischer (2009)
For leadership and research in the discovery of the cyclical and period nature of the sedimentary record in the geologic past and its connections with earth-system change, including biodiversity.

Steven M. Stanley (2006)
For research and leadership in bivalve functional morphology and the macroevolution of disparate animals, including hominids, in the context of Earth's physical and chemical history.

Frederik J. Hilgen (2003)
For his meticulous integration of various geological, geophysical, and proxy cyclostratigraphic sedimentological records in developing a late Neogene (12-0Ma) astronomical time scale.

Jan Smit (1999)
For establishing the sequence of impact-generated events that occurred 65 million years ago, including ejecta fallout, tsunami propagation, geochemical disturbances, and extinction in foraminifera and dinosaurs.

David L. Jones (1995)
For his development of terrane-tectonic theory through geologic mapping of westernmost North America and the biostratigraphic study of radiolarians in deepwater chert.

Harry B. Whittington (1990)

J. William Schopf (1986)

W. A. Berggren (1982)

James M. Schopf (1976)

Hollis D. Hedberg (1973)

Raymond C. Moore (1970)

Wendell P. Woodring (1967)

Milton N. Bramlette (1964)

Norman D. Newell (1961)

Roman Kozlowski (1958)

G. Arthur Cooper (1957)

Alfred S. Romer (1954)

Lloyd W. Stephenson (1952)

Lauge Koch (1949)

Frank H. McLearn (1948)

John Bernard Reeside, Jr. (1946)

Thomas W. Vaughan (1945)

William Joscelyn Arkell (1944)

George G. Simpson (1943)

Edward W. Berry and Arthur S. Woodward (1942)

David M. Watson (1941)

Amadeus William Grabau (1936)

Charles Schuchert (1934)

Francis A. Bather (1932)

David L. White (1931)

William B. Scott and Edward Oscar Ulrich (1930)

James P. Smith (1928)

John M. Clarke (1925)

Emmanuel de Margerie (1923)

Charles Doolittle Walcott (1921)

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