Dr. Frank Press, former Institute Professor, Life Member of the MIT Corporation, and president of the National Academy of Sciences for the past 12 years, has been named as one of two winners of the prestigious 1993 Japan Prize for his pioneering work in geophysics.
He will receive 50 million yen, or about $385,000, a gold medal and a certificate from the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan, which has awarded the prizes since 1985 under the auspices of the Japanese prime minister. He and the other winner, chemist Kary B. Mullis, inventor of the polymerase chain reaction, will receive their prizes at a ceremony in Tokyo on April 28.
Likened to the Nobel Prizes, the Japan Prizes are known internationally for recognizing contributions to human progress. The prizes are given in several categories that change annually.
A previous MIT winner, in 1990, was Dr. Marvin L. Minsky, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, for his seminal contributions to the field of artificial intelligence.
Dr. Press is internationally recognized for his research in seismology, for his study of the earth's interior, and for his contributions to geophysics, oceanography and lunar and planetary science.
He received the Japan Prize in the category of Safety Engineering and Disaster Mitigation for his original work using the surface wave motion and ruptures of the earth's crust and upper mantle as predictors of earthquakes. In 1975, Dr. Press was instrumental in creating the International Geophysical Year, a decade-long effort to map and measure geophysical phenomena.
Dr. Press, who received an SB in physics from City College of New York in 1944 and a PhD in geophysics from Columbia University in 1949, taught at Columbia and the California Institute of Technology before coming to MIT in 1965 as head of the Department of Geology and Geophysics (now Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences).
He left in 1977 to become President Jimmy Carter's science advisor and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
He returned to MIT in 1981 and was named Institute Professor, and later that year was elected president of the National Academy of Sciences. He will leave that post this summer after serving two six-year terms and he told The Scientist that his plans include co-authoring with Harvard geophysicist Raymond Siever a new introduction to their 1982 book, Earth, which will be reissued later this year under the title Introduction to Earth, concentrating on environmental concerns.
Dr. Press became a Corporation member in 1982 and has served on several visiting committees. He became a Life Member in 1992.
He has received many professional awards, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Public Service Medal in 1973. He also has received more than 20 honorary degrees.
A version of this article appeared in the March 17, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 26).