About the Award

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. Nominations are being accepted now for the 2025 Stanley Miller Medal.

Mary L. Droser, University of California, Riverside, received the 2022 NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences – Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal.

Droser is known for her pioneering discoveries and insights on Ediacaran-Paleozoic life that have transformed our understanding of early animals, their communities, and their environments.

Her research has had a profound impact on our understanding of the earliest animal-dominated marine communities through her sustained focus on the role of bioturbation and microbial interactions, and her long-term project excavating, studying, documenting, and preserving Ediacaran fossil beds in South Australia.

2022 Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal, social

Droser has introduced innovative and rigorous field methods to illuminate the fossil record of organism-environment interactions of the Ediacaran, Cambrian, and Ordovician faunas.

Droser’s impact on the people in her field is as important as her research activities. Throughout her career she has served as a mentor to generations of paleontologists and is a public voice for science.

Watch Droser’s acceptance speech.

Norman R. Pace, University of Colorado, received the 2019 NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences – 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.

This led to the development of new technologies, including fluorescent “phylogenetic stains,” which can be used to identify microorganisms in the environment through their rDNA, including the 99.9 percent of organisms that could not previously be grown and detected in a laboratory setting. That inspired Pace’s own quest to identify new species from the most diverse places on the planet. A dedicated explorer, he has studied microorganisms from deep-sea vents and caves, as well as from inside the human body, and inspired an entire field of researchers to make similar efforts. Collectively, this type of work has resulted in a tenfold increase in the known number of phyla of bacteria—a major contribution to our understanding of the planet’s diversity of life.

Watch Pace’s acceptance speech.

Award History

Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal History

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.

Stanley Miller Medal History 

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 Recipient
Mary L. Droser, 2022 NAS Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences - Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal.
Mary L. Droser
2022
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

Norman R. Pace
2019 Stanley Miller Medal
James F. Kasting
2016 Stanley Miller Medal
J. William Schopf
2013 Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal
Gerald F. Joyce
2010 Stanley Miller Medal
John P. Grotzinger
2007 Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal
Hans J. Hofmann
2002 Stanley Miller Medal