Awards & Accolades
Carnegie supported the work of pioneering geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan, whose discovery of a mutation led to the chromosomal theory of heredity. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933.
Carnegie biologist Barbara McClintock remains the only woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She was honored in 1983 for her work on genetic inheritance. By studying kernel color patterns in maize, she demonstrated the existence of so-called “jumping genes,” which change position on a chromosome, sometimes making other genes inactive or inducing mutations.
Carnegie astronomer Vera Rubin was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Clinton in 1993 for her work with Kent Ford on the rotation curves of galaxies, which confirmed the existence of dark matter, contributing to “the realization that the universe is more complex and more mysterious than had been imagined.”
Former Carnegie Staff Scientist Andrew Fire shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that double-stranded RNA can act as a gene silencer, disrupting the flow of information from DNA to RNA that forms the central dogma of biology. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever drug that deploys RNA interference to help patients.
Also in 2006, Nina Fedoroff, a former Staff Scientist at Carnegie’s Department of Embryology was awarded the National Medal of Science by President George W. Bush for her work on plant molecular biology and her contribution to education and public policy about genetic modification of plants.
In 2009 then-Carnegie Observatories Director Wendy Freedman shared the Gruber Prize in Cosmology for work that used the Hubble Space Telescope to define the rate at which the universe is expanding, called the Hubble constant.
In 2013 Director Emeritus of Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory was awarded the Geological Society of America’s Arthur L. Day Medal for his “outstanding distinction in contributing to geologic knowledge through the application of physics and chemistry to the solution of geologic problems.” Later, in 2020, he was honored with the Geochemical Society’s Victor Moritz Goldschmidt Award in recognition of his forefront research into the Solar System’s formation and the geologic history of Earth.
In 2018 Allan C. Spradling, Director Emeritus of Carnegie’s Department of Embryology, was awarded the March of Dimes and Richard B. Johnson, Jr., MD Prize in Developmental Biology for being “an outstanding scientist who has profoundly advanced the science that underlies our understanding of prenatal development and pregnancy.”
In 2022 the founding Director of Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology and former Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II was awarded the 2022 Japan Prize in the field of Biological Production, Ecology/Environment for his outstanding contributions to the estimation of global biospheric productivity and climate change science using advanced formulas based on observation.”
In 1969, Carnegie microbiologist Alfred Hershey shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in genetics. Hershey and collaborators used bacteriophages—viruses that attack bacteria—to solve several mysteries within the field of genetics.
Carnegie President Emerita Maxine Singer was awarded the National Medal of Science by George H.W. Bush in 1992 for her outstanding scientific accomplishments and her deep concern for the societal responsibility of the scientist.” Singer is recognized both for her groundbreaking work on nucleic acids in the early years of molecular biology, as well as for her years of advocacy for inclusion in STEM.
Carnegie geologist George Wetherill, Director Emeritus of the former Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, received the National Medal of Science in 1997 for his contributions to measuring geological time and to revealing the formation process for Earth-like rocky planets.
Also in 2006, Carnegie developmental biologist Joseph Gall, who is considered a founder of modern cell biology, was recognized with the Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science for his contributions to experimental technique, breakthrough work on chromosome structure, and championing of women in science.
Mark Phillips, Director Emeritus of Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, was part of a group of scientists who were honored with the 2007 Gruber Prize in Cosmology. The award was presented to the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team, of which Phillips is a member. Working independently, the two groups discovered that the universe’s expansion is accelerating rather than slowing down. Phillips also shared the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for this same work.
Developmental biologist and Director Emeritus of Carnegie’s Department of Embryology Donald Brown shared the 2012 Lasker-Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science for fundamental discoveries about the nature of genes, as well as “selfless commitment to young scientists.”
In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded former Departmental of Terrestrial Magnetism Director Sean Solomon the National Medal of Science for his work as the principal investigator for the groundbreaking Messenger mission to Mercury.
In 2022, isotope geochemist Marilyn Fogel, who spent 33 years as a Staff Scientist Carnegie’s former Geophysical Laboratory—now part of the Institution’s Earth and Planets Laboratory—has been chosen to receive the Geochemical Society’s highest honor, the Victor Moritz Goldschmidt Award, in recognition to her numerous and varied contributions to the field.