The Academy awards 11 prizes that recognize excellence in the sciences, the humanities, and commitment to the ideals of the Academy.

The most recent recipient of each prize is listed below and more information about the prizes and past winners can be found in the Academy Archives.

Amory Prize

Given since 1940, this prize recognizes major contributions to reproductive biology. The prize is supported by an endowment fund established by Mr. Francis Amory.

In 2017, the Amory Prize was awarded to Barbara J. Meyer, University of California, Berkeley, for her breakthrough solutions to long-standing mysteries about chromosomal expression and sex determination. 

Award for Excellence in Public Policy and Public Affairs

This award, established in 2018, is presented to individuals for their distinction, independence, effectiveness, and work on behalf of the common good. In recognition of his accomplishments, Ernest Moniz received the inaugural Award for Excellence in Public Policy and Public Affairs. A video of the award event is online.

Distinguished Leadership Award

First awarded in 2016, this award recognizes individuals who exemplify a legacy of leadership and a dedication to the founding ideals of the American Academy. Jerrold Meinwald, of Cornell University, received the award for his dedication and service to the Academy.

Don M. Randel Award for Humanistic Studies

Established in 1975 to recognize superior humanistic scholarship and renamed in 2017, the Don M. Randel Award for Humanistic Studies complements the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for achievement in literature.

In 2017, Martha C. Nussbaum (University of Chicago) received the award in honor of her work as a philosopher, classicist, political theorist, and public intellectual. 

Emerson-Thoreau Medal

Established in 1958 to give special recognition to distinguished achievement in the broad field of literature, the prize is awarded to an individual for his or her total literary achievement rather than for a specific work.

Margaret Atwood received the award in 2020. You may find a complete list of past recipients here.

Founders Award

Established in 2005, the 225th anniversary year of the Academy, this award honors individuals and institutions that have advanced the ideals of the founders of the Academy. Recipients embody the spirit of the founders – a commitment to intellectual inquiry, leadership and active engagement. The most recent recipients of the Founders Award are Robert Birgeneau (University of California, Berkeley) and Don Michael Randel (University of Chicago.)

Rumford Prize

Established in 1796 by a gift of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, this is one of the oldest scientific prizes in the United States. The prize recognizes contributions to the fields of heat and light, broadly interpreted.

For the invention and refinement of optogenetics, Ernst Bamberg, Ed Boyden, Karl Deisseroth, Peter Hegemann, Gero Miesenböck, and Georg Nagel were awarded the Rumford Prize in 2018. A video of the award event is online.

Sarton Award for History of Science

Presented for the first time in 1999, this award supports early-career historians of science whose work demonstrates exceptional promise. The award was established through a fund created by Academy Fellow May Sarton to honor the memory of her father, Academy Fellow George Sarton.

Previous Sarton Prize recipients include Melinda Baldwin, Books Editor at Physics Today and author of Making Nature: The History of a Scientific Journal (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and Cristina Chimisso, Senior Lecturer in European Studies and Philosophy at the Open University and author of Writing the History of the Mind: Philosophy and Science in France, 1900–1960s (Ashgate, 2008).

The most recent recipient of the Sarton Award for History of Science is Jenny Bulstrode. Read more about her studies and accomplishments in the award announcement.

Sarton Award for Poetry

Presented for the first time in 2008, this prize recognizes emerging poets of exceptional promise and distinguished achievement. It was established to honor the memory of longtime Academy Fellow May Sarton, a poet, novelist, and teacher who during her career encouraged the work of young poets. 

Vanesha Pravin (University of California, Merced) is the most recent recipient.

Scholar-Patriot Award

First presented in 2000, this award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of individuals who share the commitment of the Academy’s founders, a group of patriots who devoted their lives to promoting the arts and sciences in service to the nation.

Morton L. Mandel (Parkwood LLC; Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation) received the award in 2016 in recognition of his philanthropy and dedication to public service.

Talcott Parsons Prize

First awarded in 1974, this prize was established to honor the noted sociologist and former president of the Academy. The prize is awarded for contributions to the social sciences (broadly defined). An effort is made to rotate the prize among the various social science disciplines, including law, history, and linguistics.

Linguist William Labov is receiving this prize in 2020. You may find a complete list of past recipients here.