Statement by NSF Director Arden Bement on the 2005 Nobel Prizes

October 17, 2005

Arlington, Va.-- On behalf of the American public, I am pleased to congratulate the 2005 Nobel laureates in science.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is especially proud that six of the 10 Nobelists in science this year have been supported by NSF grants at some time in their careers. Their remarkable achievements exemplify the foundation's mandate to explore the endless frontier of science, even as they remind us of how richly that quest can pay off for the nation as a whole.

NSF support of this year's laureates is as follows:

Chemistry. The 2005 Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to Robert H. Grubbs of Caltech, Richard R. Schrock of MIT, and Yves Chauvin of the Institut Français du Pétrole, Rueil-Malmaison, France, for their pioneering work on metathesis. This reaction has become a mainstay of the chemical industry, mainly in the development of pharmaceuticals and of advanced plastic materials, and has greatly advanced the cause of "green chemistry." Metathesis not only uses considerably less energy than previous methods, it also reduces potentially hazardous waste products. NSF has provided extensive support for both Grubbs and Schrock since the 1970s.

Physics. Half of the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics honors the advances in laser-based precision spectroscopy made by two scientists: John L. Hall of JILA (a research laboratory in Boulder, Colo., that is jointly operated by the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and Theodor W. Hänsch of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. Their work has made it possible to measure frequencies with an accuracy of fifteen digits. This level of accuracy, in turn, has allowed researchers to study the stability of the constants of nature over time, to develop extremely accurate clocks and improved GPS technology, and to carry out many other ultra-precise measurements. NSF funded Hänsch from 1977 through 1985, when he left Stanford University to return to his native Germany. The foundation has also helped support the atomic and molecular physics group at JILA for more than 30 years.

The other half of the physics award goes to Harvard University's Roy J. Glauber, whose analysis of quantum effects in laser optics laid the foundations for modern applications such as quantum cryptography. NSF supported Glauber's research with several grants in the 1970s.

Economics. The 2005 Nobel Prize in economics honors Robert J. Aumann of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Thomas C. Schelling of the University of Maryland, College Park, for enhancing our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis. Their work has illuminated a range of phenomena, from the competitive strategies of firms and the delegation of political decision-making power, to wage negotiations and the existence of organized crime. Their insights have also proven highly relevant to real-world conflict resolution and the prevention of war. Both Aumann and Schelling have been supported by NSF grants.

Since 1950, Nobel Prizes have been awarded to some 160 U.S. and U.S.-based researchers who have been supported by NSF grants at some point in their careers. Established "to promote the progress of science," NSF supports fundamental research in many disciplines, and the significance of and success in that mission is reflected, in part, by the number of NSF-supported scientists recognized with Nobel Prizes for their discoveries.
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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.47 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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