Washington, D.C.—Sean Solomon, director of Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism from 1992 until 2012 will receive the nation’s highest scientific award, the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony later this year.

Sean Solomon's career has been characterized by an uncommon combination of science and leadership. He established important new paradigms in the Earth and planetary sciences, while simultaneously leading the field of geophysics. Solomon is the principal investigator and creative force behind the MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission to Mercury, which has had a bounty of discoveries that have changed what we thought we knew about the innermost planet. He is an acknowledged leader in the fields of seismology, geophysics, and planetary geology. His scientific research has ranged from oceanographic expeditions on Earth to spacecraft missions to Venus, Mars, Mercury, and the Moon. His fundamental contributions have changed our understanding of the structure and geodynamics of Earth, the Moon, and the terrestrial planets.

President Obama remarked in a statement: “These scholars and innovators have expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields, and helped improve countless lives. Our nation has been enriched by their achievements and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry, and invention.”

After Carnegie, Solomon became the director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. In addition to his intellectual contributions and scientific leadership, Solomon has also been tireless in his service to the scientific community and the interests of society as a whole. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has served as President of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest professional society in the Earth sciences, among many other appointments. Over his long career, he has been a supportive advisor to a large number of universities, research groups, and other scientific organizations and has been a selfless mentor to students and younger colleagues, many of whom have become leaders in their fields.

Solomon received his B.S. from Caltech and his Ph. D. from MIT. Before joining Carnegie he was Professor of Geophysics at MIT.
The National Medal of Science was established by the 86th Congress in 1959 as a Presidential Award to be given to individuals "deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences." In 1980 Congress expanded this recognition to include the social and behavioral sciences.

A Committee of 12 scientists and engineers is appointed by the President to evaluate the nominees for the Award. Since its establishment, the National Medal of Science has been awarded to 487 distinguished scientists and engineers whose careers spanned decades of research and development. The recipients database from 1962 to the present can be searched at http://www.nsf.gov/od/nms/recipients.jsp.

Scientific Area: 
News Topic: 
Earth/Planetary Science