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Washburn Award

Honoring Excellence

Washburn Award

Through its board of trustees and prizes and awards committee, the Museum of Science presents the Bradford Washburn Award annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution toward public understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in our lives.

Established in 1964 with a trustee’s anonymous gift, the Bradford Washburn Award is the highest honor the Museum bestows. Brad Washburn was not only the visionary director of this great institution for 40 years, he was also an explorer, cartographer, photographer, and a passionate defender of the environment. The Washburn Award has been bestowed on individuals who embody Brad’s spirit of adventure and his ability to translate and interpret science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for the public.

The Museum presents each awardee with a reception, an honorarium, and an embossed golden medal that depicts a youth at the pinnacle of a mountain, eyes turned upward, seeking still a higher prize. It symbolizes the spirit of attainment, as well as the quest for perfection.

Learn more about the fall 2015 Washburn Award event.

Prize Winners:

  • 2015: Michael Pollan

    Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

  • 2014: Sir Timothy Berners-Lee

    Inventor of the World Wide Web

  • 2014: Michael R. Bloomberg

    Founder of Bloomberg LP & Bloomberg Philanthropies, 108th Mayor of New York City

  • 2014: Richard Saul Wurman

    Creator, curator, and chair of TED from 1984 through 2002

  • 2013: Neil Alden Armstrong

    NASA Commander, Apollo 11 (received posthumously)

  • 2012: Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage

    Co-hosts of Discovery Channel's MythBusters

  • 2011: Jean-Michel Cousteau

    Explorer, environmentalist, educator, oceanographer, and filmmaker

  • 2010: Atul Gawande, MD, MPH

    Surgeon, professor, author, New Yorker staff writer

  • 2009: Thomas L. Friedman

    Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times columnist

  • 2008: Neil deGrasse Tyson, PhD

    Frederick P. Rose Director, Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History; television host, NOVA scienceNOW

  • 2007: Bill Bryson

    Author, A Short History of Nearly Everything

  • 2006: David Suzuki, PhD

    Scientist, environmentalist, and broadcaster

  • 2005: Dean Kamen


  • 2004: Brian Greene, PhD


  • 2003: Alan Alda

    Television host, Scientific American Frontiers

  • 2002: Greg MacGillivray

    Large-format filmmaker

  • 2001: Dava Sobel


  • 2000: Ira Flatow

    Author, television and radio producer and host

  • 1999: Nicholas Negroponte, PhD

    Cofounder and director, MIT Media Lab

  • 1998: Timothy Johnson, MD, MPH

    ABC Medical Editor

  • 1997: Daniel Goleman, PhD

    Psychologist, author, science journalist

  • 1996: Edward O. Wilson, PhD

    Evolutionary biologist, entomologist

  • 1995: Sylvia A. Earle, PhD

    Sea explorer, conservationist

  • 1994: Paula S. Apsell

    Journalist, film producer

  • 1993: David A. Macaulay

    Writer, illustrator

  • 1992: Sally Kristen Ride, PhD

    First American woman in space

  • 1991: C. Everett Koop, MD, ScD

    Former surgeon general of the United States

  • 1990: John Henry Hemming, CMG, DLitt

    Director, Royal Geographical Society

  • 1989: Bradford and Barbara Washburn 50th Anniversary

    No award presented

  • 1988: National Geographic Society

  • 1987: Sheila Evans Widnall, ScD

    Teacher, researcher, aerospace engineer

  • 1986: Robert D. Ballard, PhD

    Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

  • 1985: Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager, USAF (Retired)

    First to break the sound barrier

  • 1984: Stephen Jay Gould, PhD

    Harvard professor of geology and curator of invertebrate paleontology, Museum of Comparative Zoology

  • 1983: Sir David Attenborough


  • 1982: Thor Heyerdahl, PhD

    Student of prehistoric navigation

  • 1981: Roger Tory Peterson, PhD

    Artist, teacher, ornithologist

  • 1980: Mary D. Leakey, PhD


  • 1980: Kenneth F. Weaver

    Science Editor, National Geographic Magazine

  • 1979: Isaac Asimov, PhD

    Science author

  • 1978: Carl Sagan, PhD

    Author and professor of astronomy and space sciences, Cornell University

  • 1977: Sir Arthur Charles Clarke

    Science and science-fiction writer

  • 1976: Loren C. Eiseley, PhD

    Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

  • 1975: Jean Mayer, PhD, ScD

    Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

  • 1974: Jane Goodall, PhD

    Wildlife researcher, primatologist

  • 1974: Baron Hugo Van Lawick

    Nature photographer

  • 1973: Rene Dubos, PhD

    Professor of biology, Rockefeller University, New York

  • 1972: Walter Sullivan

    Science Editor, The New York Times

  • 1970: Walter Cronkite

    Senior CBS News correspondent

  • 1969: Sir George Taylor, DSc

    Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England

  • 1968: George Wald, PhD

    Professor of biology, Harvard University

  • 1967: Donald Baxter MacMillan

    Rear Admiral, USNR (Retired)

  • 1966: Gerard Piel

    Publisher, Scientific American

  • 1965: Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau

    Director, Institut Oceanographique et Musee, Monaco

  • 1964: Melville Bell Grosvenor, PhD

    President, National Geographic Society