About the Award

The James Craig Watson Medal is presented every two years for outstanding contributions to the science of astronomy and carries with it a gold-plated bronze medal, a $25,000 prize, and $50,000 to support the recipient’s research. The Watson Medal was established by NAS Member and prolific Canadian-American astronomer, James Craig Watson. Watson is credited with discovering twenty-two asteroids in his lifetime. He published many articles and wrote A Popular Treatise on Comets (1861) and Theoretical Astronomy (1868).

James Stone, Institute for Advanced Study, received the 2024 James Craig Watson Medal. Stone has transformed the field of computational astrophysics and ushered in a new era of precision simulations with a wide range of applications.

His research is focused on fluid dynamics, particularly magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), for which he has developed some of the most powerful and widely used astrophysical codes. His innovative methods address some of the field’s most challenging problems, resulting in foundational insights into the nature of giant molecular clouds, the evolution of accretion disks, the process of planetary migration, and the phenomena of radiation transport. He was the primary developer of the ZEUS code, one of the first publicly available astrophysical MHD codes, and has led the development of the Athena and Athena++ adaptive mesh refinement frameworks for astrophysical MHD.

2024 James Craig Watson, Stone social

Stone is a leader in the public dissemination of research software and is also interested in issues related to software development for modern high-performance computing systems, and the support of research computing in academia.

Watch Stone’s acceptance speech.

Award History

The Watson Medal was first awarded in 1887 to Benjamin Apthorp Gould for his work promoting the progress of astronomical science. Gould was not only an astronomer, but also active in securing the establishment of the National Academy of Sciences. Among other contributions to astronomy, Gould mapped the stars of the southern skies. This four-year long endeavor involved the use of the recently developed photometric method, and upon the publication of its results in 1879, it was received as a significant contribution to science.

Previous recipients of the James Craig Watson Medal continue to achieve outstanding advancements in their fields. Two recipients have been honored with a National Medal of Science.

Most Recent Recipient
James Stone, 2024 James Craig Watson Medal.
James Stone
Call for Nominations

Awards will be presented in a variety of fields including biophysics, astronomy, microbiology, medical sciences, and more.

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Award Types

Previous Award Recipients

Samuel Harvey Moseley, Jr.
Lisa Kewley
Ewine Fleur van Dishoeck
Timothy M. Brown
Robert P. Kirshner
Jeremiah P. Ostriker