Three scientists to receive Presidential Enrico Fermi Award

October 09, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC -- Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham today named John Bahcall, Raymond Davis, Jr. and Seymour Sack as winners of the Enrico Fermi Award.

The Fermi award is a presidential award and recognizes scientists of international stature for their lifetimes of exceptional achievement in the development, use or production of energy (broadly defined to include the science and technology of nuclear, atomic, molecular, and particle interactions and effects).

Drs. Bahcall and Davis will receive the award for their research in neutrino physics. Dr. Sack will receive the award for his contributions to national security. The winners will receive a gold medal and a citation signed by the President and Secretary of Energy. Dr. Sack will receive a $187,500 honorarium. Drs. Bahcall and Davis will share an award and so will each receive a $93,750 honorarium.

"The contributions these distinguished scientists have made to understanding the world around us and to our national security are immense," Secretary Abraham said. "Their lifetime of innovative research follows in the tradition of Enrico Fermi, the great scientist we commemorate with this award."

Dr. Sack's award citation will read: "For his contributions to the national security of the United States in his work assuring the reliability of nuclear weapons and thus deterring war between the superpowers."

Dr. Sack, 74, received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Yale University. Over a 35-year career at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dr. Sack became one of the foremost designers of nuclear weapons in the United States. His design concepts are now found in all weapons in the stockpile. His design programs introduced insensitive high explosives, fire-resistant plutonium pits and other state-of-the-art nuclear safety concepts. He retired from the laboratory in 1990, but continues as a Laboratory Associate.

The citation for the award to Drs. Bahcall and Davis will read: "For their innovative research in astrophysics leading to a revolution in understanding the properties of the elusive neutrino, the lightest known particle with mass." Bahcall and Davis are the scientists most responsible for the field of solar neutrino physics and neutrino astronomy. Bahcall, a theorist, and Davis, an experimentalist, helped determined that neutrinos have mass and that electron neutrinos oscillate into many "flavors" on their way from the sun to the earth.

Dr. Bahcall, 68, received his B.S. degree in physics from the University of California at Berkeley, his M.S. degree from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. degree from Harvard. He began his career as a research fellow at Indiana University. He taught physics at California Institute of Technology from 1962-1970. Since 1971 he has been Professor of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study and visiting lecturer with the rank of Professor at Princeton University.

Dr. Davis, 88, received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. degree from Yale University. He began his career at Dow Chemical Co. He worked at Monsanto Chemical Company and from 1948-1984 was a senior chemist at DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory. In 1984, he became Research Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002.

DOE administers the Fermi Award for the White House. Secretary Abraham will present the awards on October 22 at a conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, Nuclear Energy and Science for the 21st Century: Atoms for Peace Plus Fifty, marks the 50th anniversary of the speech by President Eisenhower to the United Nations General Assembly on the peaceful uses of the atom. The conference and Fermi Award ceremony are open to the public and press, but registration is required and seating is extremely limited. Details on the conference and online registration are available at

The Fermi Award, one of the government's oldest and most prestigious science and technology awards, dates to 1956. It honors the memory of Enrico Fermi, leader of the group of scientists who, on December 2, 1942, achieved the first self-sustained, controlled nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago. Past recipients include physicists John von Neumann, Ernest O. Lawrence, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller and Sheldon Datz.
Detailed information about the Enrico Fermi Award, its winners and their contributions, is available on DOE's Office of Science web site at

DOE/US Department of Energy

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