Public Release: 

Statement By Dr. Neal Lane, Director, National Science Foundation: On Award Of Nobel Prizes

National Science Foundation

I congratulate the 1997 Nobel Laureates in science. This honor is fitting tribute to their remarkable achievements and, in the case of four of them, to the foresight of the American public which supported their work.

Economist Robert C. Merton of Harvard University, who helped to change the field of finance, received a graduate fellowship and three research grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and has served often as an expert reviewer for NSF proposals. Physicists Steve Chu of Stanford and William D. Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) also were recipients of NSF fellowships early in their careers. Chu's research has been supported by NSF over the last 20 years, and Phillips' has been supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce through NIST. Support for the work of chemist Paul D. Boyer of the University of California-Los Angeles by American taxpayers includes five NSF awards over 15 years.

To date, NSF has supported the work of at least 23 Nobel Laureates, and at least 17 laureates are former NSF Graduate Fellows.

As the only federal agency to support fundamental research in all non-medical science and engineering disciplines, NSF is the agent of the American people, investing in a more secure and productive future. Most Americans value science as a national resource; nearly three-quarters surveyed say that we should continue to invest in science even if it shows no immediate benefit. American taxpayers are both the sponsors and the beneficiaries of scientific research. As such, they helped make possible the achievements of the Nobelists we honor today, and also share in the benefits that this new knowledge brings to society.

Some say that we are approaching the end of science, and that one day there will be no more mysteries left to understand and no new knowledge left to uncover. I disagree with that view. The discoveries that we honor today were at one time unimaginable. Can we even imagine now the future Nobel prizes that might result from the seeds of discovery being sown today? We live in a golden age of science, which will continue to unlock the secrets of the unknown for the benefit of all humankind. I encourage all Americans to join me in gratitude to these pioneers of science, the 1997 Nobel Laureates.

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