The Academy awards 11 prizes that recognize excellence in the sciences and the humanities and a 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 is 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. A video of the award event is online, as is a transcript.

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. A  video of the award event is available online, as is a transcript.

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.

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.

Toni Morrison received the award in 2016.

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.)

Public Policy Prize

A new prize was created in 2018 to recognize excellence, independence and effectiveness in public service.

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.

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.

The most recent recipient of the Sarton Award for History of Science is Melinda Baldwin (American Institute of Physics).

Rumford Prize

Established in 1839, 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. In 1876, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, created an endowment for this prize.

For their contributions to the field of laser technology, Federico Capasso (Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science) and Alfred Cho (Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs) were awarded the Rumford Prize in 2015.

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. The most recent honoree was Joan Wallach Scott, Institute for Advanced Study (Social Science). The announcement and acceptance speech transcript are online.