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Washburn Award

Honoring Excellence

Washburn Award logo

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.

Prize Winners:

  • 2018

    Margot Lee Shetterly

    Author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race

  • 2017

    Alison Gopnik, PhD

    Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley

  • Salman Khan

    Founder of Khan Academy

  • 2016

    Paul Farmer, MD, PHD

    Founding director and the chief strategist of Partners In Health

  • 2015

    Michael Pollan

    Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

  • 2014

    Sir Timothy Berners-Lee

    Inventor of the World Wide Web

  • Michael R. Bloomberg

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

  • 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


  • 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

  • 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