Honors & Awards

Recipients of the National Medal of Science

UCLA's Division of Physical Sciences is proud to count seven recipients of the National Medal of Science among our faculty and former faculty members: Jacob Bjerknes, Richard Bernstein, Donald J. Cram, C. Kumar Patel, William Rubey, Julien Schwinger, and Saul Winstein. Established by the 86th Congress in 1959, the National Medal of Science is a Presidential Award honoring individuals "deserving of recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge" in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, social and behavioral sciences. 


Julian Schwinger, Physical Sciences, 1964

"For [his] profound work on the fundamental problems of quantum field theory, and for many contributions to and lucid expositions of nuclear physics and electrodynamics." [National Science Foundation]. Presented by President Lyndon Johnson at a White House Ceremony in the East Room on February 8, 1965

Schwinger was only 17 when his first scientific papers were published; he continued to work intensively until a few days before his death. During World War II, he played a leading role on the MIT team that developed radar. After the war, he became a Harvard professor and published the monumental papers on quantum electrodynamics for which he shared the Nobel Prize with Richard Feynman and Sin-itiro Tomonga. He joined UCLA's faculty as a professor of physics in 1972. His published work comprises over 200 papers and numerous books.

Born New York City, February 12, 1918. Died July 16, 1994.

In Memoriam


William Rubey, Geology and Geophysics, 1965 

"For showing by profoundly original obeservations and clear physical reasoning how sand grains and mountains move and from whence oceans come." [National Science Foundation]. Presented by President Lyndon Johnson at a White House ceremony on February 10, 1966.

Rubey joined the UCLA faculty in 1960. He "retired" in 1966, but was recalled to service every year until his death in 1974. His advanced topics in geology seminars dealt with major unsolved problems in earth science, such as the origin and evolution of mountain belts, the diversity of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, the growth of continents, the origin of ocean basins and of sea water, and the evolution of terrestrial planets. 

Born Moberly, Missouri, December 19, 1898. Died Santa Monica, California, April 12, 1974.

In Memoriam


Jacob Bjerknes, Meteorology, 1966 

"By watching and studying maps he discovered the cyclone-making waves of the air and the climate-controlling changes of the sea." [National Science Foundation] Presented by President Lyndon Johnson at a White House ceremony on February 6, 1967.

A Norwegian meteorologist, Bjerknes became famous in his twenties for his role in the discovery of the polar front in weather systems. On a visit to the U.S. in 1940, he was stranded by the German invasion of Norway. To support the war effort, he established a training school for air force weather officers at UCLA. Thus he founded UCLA's meteorology department, now known as Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. The department honors his memory by conferring the Bjerknes Memorial Award to a promising graduate student.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, November 2, 1897. Died July 7, 1975.

In Memoriam


Saul Winstein, Chemistry, 1970

"In recognition of his many innovative and perceptive contributions to the study of mechanism in organic chemical reactions." [National Science Foundation] Presented by President Richard Nixon at a White House Ceremony on May 21, 1971.

Winstein graduated from UCLA in 1934, and received his degree from CalTech in 1938. After a year at Harvard, he returned to UCLA in 1941, where his research flourished until his death in 1969. Among his many achievements, he made important discoveries in medium effects, radical and organometallic reaction mechanisms, ion-pair behavior, and sustitution and elimination reactions. His colleagues noted that "his research results started whole trends which can be identified with vast bibliographies involving many distinguished investigators the world over." The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry named the annual Winstein Lecture in his honor.

Born Montreal, Canada, October 18, 1912. Died Los Angeles, California, November 23, 1969.

In Memoriam


Richard Bernstein, Chemistry, 1989

"For his development and use of the technique of molecular beams, which have played a significant role in shaping the field of modern chemical dynamics." [National Science Foundation] Presented by President George H.W. Bush at a White House ceremony on October 18, 1989.

Bernstein joined the UCLA faculty in 1983, after a career that included both applied science and influential academic posts. He was a pioneer in molecular beam chemistry, a discipline that has yielded great insight into the details of chemical reactions. Most early studies of chemical reactions involved gross averaging over assorted elementary processes, and Bernstein's work enabled chemists to investigate a wide range of these processes. His death in 1990 was mourned by his UCLA colleagues as a loss of "his encouragement, advice, and optimism."

Born Long Island, New York, October 31, 1923. Died Helsinki, Finland, July 8, 1990.   

In Memoriam


Donald J. Cram, Organic Chemistry, 1993

"For his pioneering research on the chemical foundations of molecular recognition; the understanding of the molecular basis of biological systems; his shaping of scientific thought and development, and guidance to generations of students." [National Science Foundation] Presented by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore at a ceremony on the White House South Lawn, September 30, 1993.

Cram was born in 1919, the same year UCLA was established. He joined the UCLA faculty in 1947 and taught chemistry, including introductory courses, to generations of students. Cram was the co-author of Organic Chemistry, a well-known textbook widely used in the U.S. His work on host-guest chemistry earned him the Nobel Prize, as well as the National Medal of Science.

Born in Chester, Vermont, 1919. Died in Palm Desert, California, June 17, 2001.

In Memoriam


C. Kumar Patel, Physics, 1996

"For his fundamental contributions to quantum electronics and invention of the carbon dioxide laser, which have had significant impact on industrial, scientific, medical, and defense applications." [National Science Foundation] Presented by President Bill Clinton in a White House ceremony on July 26, 1996.

A professor of physics and astronomy as well as engineering, Patel served as UCLA's Vice Chancellor for Research through 1999. His current research interests focus on experimental condensed matter, and he is still involved in the development of new laser systems.

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