Theoretical physicist Marvin L. Cohen and surface chemist
Gabor A. Somorjai - both of them scientists at Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory - will receive the medal at
a White House ceremony on June 13.
"Each one of these individuals has helped advance our country's
place ... as a leader in discovery, creativity and technology,"
said President George W. Bush. "Their contributions have
touched all of our lives and will continue to do so."
"The National Medal of Science is one of the highest honors
that American scientists can receive, for it honors not
only their lasting contribution to science, but also their
great service to this nation," said Chancellor Robert M.
Berdahl. "We are extraordinarily proud to claim these exemplary
scientists as faculty members at UC Berkeley."
UC Berkeley scientists have received 25 of the medals since
Congress created the award in 1959.
"This is really an award for Berkeley - the campus and
the lab," said Cohen, 67, professor of physics, who has
been a member of the faculty since 1964. "I've had numerous
students and post-docs, and they certainly share in this
"I'm very grateful," said Somorjai, who came to this country
at the age of 21 after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956
and enrolled in graduate school at UC Berkeley. "In 45 years,
a lot has happened that was very constructive and positive,
and I am absolutely delighted and honored that the country
appreciated that and rewards me with this medal.
"The University of California has been very good to me,
too, and I am just very happy that I could give back by
creating new science and educating new generations of scientists
in the process."
Somorjai, 67, who also joined the UC Berkeley faculty in
1964, is considered by his peers to be the father of modern
surface chemistry, having discovered many of the details
of how chemical reactions occur at the surface of solid
materials. These discoveries have had a major impact on
many fields, including the semiconductor industry, petrochemical
companies that use catalysts, and more recently, various
fields of biology.
Cohen, a native of Quebec who moved to San Francisco at
the age of 12 and graduated from UC Berkeley in 1957, is
known widely for the theoretical model he developed to describe
how materials are put together on the atomic level. This
model is used worldwide to calculate the properties of materials
ranging from metals and semiconductors to superconductors,
and has had a major impact on the semiconductor industry
and the emerging field of nanoscience.
Both Cohen and Somorjai are members of the National Academy
of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Both also are University Professors, an honor accorded to
only two dozen faculty members within the 10-campus University
of California system.
Of the 14 scientists and one engineer named today by President
George W. Bush, five are faculty members at the University
of California. Francisco J. Ayala of UC Irvine was honored
for work that revolutionized molecular biology in the study
of the origin of species. Charles D. Keeling of the Scripps
Institute of Oceanography, which is affiliated with UC San
Diego, pioneered studies on the impact of the carbon cycle
to changes in climate, collecting some of the most important
data in the study of global climate change.
Harold Eliot Varmus, professor of microbiology & immunology
at UC San Francisco and currently president and chief executive
of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, conducted
research at UCSF that earned him the Nobel Prize in Medicine
in 1989. With current UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop,
he showed that normal human and animal cells contain genes
capable of becoming cancer genes, a discovery that led to
an aggressive and successful search for genetic origins
"Their contributions to the world around us are enormous.
Their ideas have led to major breakthroughs in human health
and the tools evolving from their research have put the
U.S. in the forefront of many new industries," National
Science Foundation (NSF) Director Rita Colwell said of the
new medalists. "We are proud of these extraordinary people
- and grateful for their unceasing inquisitiveness, creativity
and dedication to obtain new knowledge for the good of all
The NSF administers the National Medal of Science for the