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Academy Prizes

The Academy awards nine prizes that recognize excellence in the sciences and the humanities and a commitment to the ideals of the Academy. Nominations are accepted from Academy Fellows only.

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.

Recent recipient:

Patrick C. Walsh Patrick C. Walsh
(Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions)

Full list of recipients.

Award for Humanistic Studies

The Academy established this award in 1975 to recognize superior humanistic scholarship. The Humanities Award complements the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for achievement in literature.

Recent recipients:

Denis Donoghue Helen Vendler
Denis Donoghue
(New York University)
Helen Vendler
(Harvard University)

Full list of recipients.

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.

Recent recipient:

Jerrold Meinwald Jerrold Meinwald
(Cornell University)

Full list of recipients.

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.

Recent recipient:

Toni Morrison Toni Morrison
(Princeton University)
photo © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, all rights reserved.

Full list of recipients.

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.

Recent recipients:

Robert Birgeneau Don Michael Randel
Robert Birgeneau
(University of California, Berkeley)
Don Michael Randel
(University of Chicago)

Full list of recipients.

Poetry Prize in Honor of May Sarton

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.

Recent recipient:

Vanesha Pravin Vanesha Pravin
(University of California, Merced)
photo courtesy Patrick Sylvain

Full list of recipients.

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.

Recent recipients:

Federico Capasso Federico Capasso
(Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)
photo courtesy Eliza Grinnell at
Harvard SEAS
Alfred Cho Alfred Cho
(Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs)
photo courtesy Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs

Full list of recipients.

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.

Recent recipients:

Morton L. Mandel Morton L. Mandel
(Parkwood LLC; Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation)
2016©Nannette Bedway
Yo-Yo Ma Yo-Yo Ma
(Cellist)

Full list of recipients.

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.

Recent recipient:

Joan Wallach Scott Joan Wallach Scott
(Institute for Advanced Study)

Full list of recipients.