Prizes and Awards

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PRIZES AND AWARDS This entry includes 5 subentries:
Academy Awards
Guggenheim Awards
MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Awards
Nobel Prizes
Pulitzer Prizes

Academy Awards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in May 1927 through the efforts of Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. Its purpose was to "establish the industry in the public mind as a respectable, legitimate institution, and its people as reputable individuals." Membership is by invitation of the academy board to those who have achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures. Its original thirty-six members included studio executives, production specialists, and actors. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the academy had 5,467 voting members. The academy is supported by members' dues and the revenues from the annual Academy Awards presentation.

The Academy Awards, soon given the name "Oscars," were initially for "a dual purpose. One is that we want to recognize fine achievements, and the other is that we want to inspire those others to give finer achievements tomorrow" (Holden, Behind the Oscar, pp. 30–31). The Oscar is awarded by nomination from the several groups of members, including actors, directors, and so forth, and by election of all members of the academy. The categories of awards changed between the first Oscars in 1929, when thirteen awards were presented, and 2001, when twenty-three were presented. The first awards ceremonies were at private dinners for the members of the academy. This was amplified by partial radio coverage in 1931. Television was introduced in 1951, and the auditorium format of televised presentation evolved in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Academy Awards reflect the popular culture of the United States with an increasing international aspect as American movies earned acceptance around the world. Through 1939 the Best Picture Oscars were awarded to six historical films, ranging from World War I dramas to Gone with the Wind (1939). In the next decade eight contemporary social dramas, including The Lost Weekend (1945) and Gentleman's Agreement (1947), won Best Picture awards. In the following twenty years eight musicals and fantasies, including An American in Paris (1951) and The Sound of Music (1965); and seven historical dramas, including From Here to Eternity (1953) and Patton (1969), earned Best Picture. In the final three decades of the twentieth century ten historical dramas, including Chariots of Fire (1981) and Shakespeare in Love (1998); six mysteries, including The French Connection (1971) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991); and five social dramas, including Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Forrest Gump (1994), earned the award.

Through 2001 only 188 actors of the 608 nominated won Oscars. In 2001, of the 106 nominations made for the 23 Oscars, 37 nominees were not U.S. citizens. It is fair to say that by the early twenty-first century the Academy Awards were recognized globally as the symbol of achievement in the entertainment world.


Holden, Anthony. Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Levy, Emanuel. Oscar Fever: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards. New York: Continuum, 2001.

Osborne, Robert. Sixty Years of the Oscar. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989.


See alsoFilm ; Hollywood .

Guggenheim Awards

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation presents annual fellowships to assist research and artistic creation. United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife, Olga, created the foundation in memorial to their son, who died on 26 April 1922.

The foundation offers fellowships to both artists and scholars in most disciplines, including the humanities, the creative arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The conditions for applying for the award are broad and do not include applicants' race, sex, or creed. Awards are presented to those demonstrating exceptional scholarship or artistic creativity and must result in a specific project outcome, such as a work of art or a monograph. There are two annual competitions: one is open to citizens and permanent residents of the United States and Canada; the second is open to citizens and residents of Latin America and the Caribbean. Appointments are normally for one year and cannot be renewed.

Between 1925 and 2000 the foundation granted more than $200 million in fellowships to some 150,000 individuals. A variety of advisory panels reviews the applicants and make recommendations to the committee of selection. Final recommendations are then given to the board of trustees. Less than 10 percent of the applicants receive fellowships. The foundation maintains an active Web site and its headquarters is in New York City.


The Foundation Directory. New York: Foundation Center, Columbia University Press, 2001.

Karen RaeMehaffey

MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Awards

In 1978, the will of John D. MacArthur, the Chicago billionaire owner of Banker's Life and Casualty Company, directed the establishment of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a private, independent grantmaking organization devoted to improving the human condition, with a bequest of $700 million. The most publicized of its four programs has been the MacArthur Fellowships, popularly known as the "genius" awards. Each year between twenty and thirty individuals receive a five-year unrestricted grant of $500,000. Candidates are nominated by approximately one hundred anonymous "talent scouts," and then selected by a committee of leaders in a variety of fields. Fellows, who must be citizens or residents of the United States, are selected on the basis of their potential for extraordinary creative accomplishment as well as evidence of exceptional originality, dedication, and self-direction. By the end of 2001, more than six hundred writers, artists, scientists, activists, teachers, social scientists, and others have received the prestigious award. Perhaps because fellows are not evaluated or required to produce evidence of how they benefited from the awards, some critics question the fellowships' success in fostering significant creative advancement. The foundation believes, however, that by generously supporting talented individuals the fellowships enhance the creative and intellectual environment of society at large.


Senior, Jennifer. "Winning the Genius Lottery." Civilization 4, no. 5 (October–November 1997): 42–49.

Megan L.Benton

Nobel Prizes

Since their inception in 1901, Nobel Prizes have stood as the cachet of international recognition and achievement in the areas of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. Awards in economics were established in 1969. Nonetheless, the various Nobel Prize committees were slow to recognize Americans. During the first decade of the awards, Americans received only three prizes. In the second decade, Americans earned only four awards. In later decades, however, the number of prizes claimed by Americans grew remarkably.

In all, by 2001 seventy U.S. citizens had won or shared twenty-three awards in physics. Twenty-one prizes had gone to fifty Americans in chemistry. The United States won its greatest number of prizes in the area of physiology or medicine, receiving forty-six prizes among eighty-three recipients. Only eleven writers had won the Nobel Prize in the field of literature, the most elusive prize category for Americans. The Peace Prize had been awarded to eighteen Americans, who received or shared sixteen prizes. The prize in economics, awarded by the Central Bank of Sweden, had been won nineteen times by twenty-seven Americans. No American has ever declined an award.

American winners of the Nobel Prize are listed below.

Economics: Paul A. Samuelson (1970); Simon S. Kuznets (1971); Kenneth J. Arrow (1972); Wassily Leontief (1973); Milton Friedman (1976); Herbert A. Simon (1978); Lawrence R. Klein (1980); James Tobin (1981); George Stigler (1982); Gerard Debreu (1983); Franco Modigliani (1985); James M. Buchanan (1986); Robert M. Solow (1987); Harry M. Markowitz, William F. Sharpe, and Merton H. Miller (1990); Ronald Coase (1991); Gary S. Becker (1992); Robert W. Fogel and Douglass C. North (1993); John F. Nash and John C. Harsanyi (1994); Robert Lucas (1995); William Vickrey (1996); Robert C. Merton and Myron S. Scholes (1997); James J. Heckman and Daniel L. McFadden; A. Michael Spence, Joseph E. Stiglitz, and George A. Akerlof.

Literature: Sinclair Lewis (1930); Eugene O'Neill (1936); Pearl Buck (1938); William Faulkner (1949); Ernest Hemingway (1954); John Steinbeck (1962); Saul Bellow (1976); Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978); Czeslaw Milosz (1980); Joseph Brodsky (1987); Toni Morrison (1993).

Chemistry: Theodore Richards (1914); Irving Langmuir (1932); Harold Urey (1934); James Sumner, John Northrop, Wendell Stanley (1946); William Giauque (1949); Edwin McMillan, Glenn Seaborg (1951); Linus Carl Pauling (1954); Vincent Du Vigneaud (1955); Willard Libby (1960); Melvin Calvin (1961); Robert B. Woodward (1965); Robert S. Mulliken (1966); Lars Onsager (1968); Christian B. Anfinsen, Stanford Moore, William H. Stein (1972); Paul J. Flory (1974); William N. Lipscomb (1976); Herbert C. Brown (1979); Paul Berg and Walter Gilbert (1980); Roald Hoffmann (1981); Henry Taube (1983); R. Bruce Merrifield (1984); Herbert A. Hauptman and Jerome Karle (1985); Dudley R. Herschback and Yuan T. Lee (1986); Donald Cram and Charles J. Pedersen (1987); Thomas R. Cech and Sidney Altman (1989); Elias James Corey (1990); Rudolph A. Marcus (1992); Kary B. Mullis (1993); George A. Olah (1994); F. Sherwood Roland and Mario Molina (1995); Richard E. Smalley and Robert F. Curl, Jr. (1996); Paul D. Boyer (1997); Walter Kohn (1998); Ahmed H. Zewail (1999); Alan J. Heeger and Alan G. MacDiarmid (2000); William S. Knowles and K. Barry Sharpless (2001).

Peace: Theodore Roosevelt (1906); Elihu Root (1912); Woodrow Wilson (1919); Charles G. Dawes (1925); Frank B. Kellogg (1929); Jane Addams, Nicholas M. Butler (1931); Cordell Hull (1945); Emily G. Balch, John R. Mott (1946); American Friends Service Committee (1947); Ralph Bunche (1950); George C. Marshall (1953); Linus Carl Pauling (1962); Martin Luther King Jr. (1964); Norman E. Borlaug (1970); Henry Kissinger (1973); Elie Wiesel (1986); Jody Williams (1997).

Physics: A. A. Michelson (1907); Robert A. Millikan (1923); Arthur Holly Compton (1927); Carl Anderson (1936); Clinton Davisson (1937); Ernest Lawrence (1939); Otto Stern (1943); Isidor Rabi (1944); Percy Bridgman (1946); Felix Bloch, Edward Purcell (1952); Willis Lamb, Jr., Polykarp Kusch (1955); William Shockley, John Bardeen, Walter Brattain (1956); Emilio Segrè, Owen Chamberlain (1959); Donald Glaser (1960); Robert Hofstadter (1961); Maria Goeppert-Mayer, Eugene P. Wigner (1963); Charles H. Townes (1964); Julian S. Schwinger, Richard P. Feynman (1965); Hans A. Bethe (1967); Luis W. Alvarez (1968); Murray Gell-Mann (1969); John Bardeen, Leon N. Cooper, John Schrieffer (1972); Ivar Giaever (1973); James Rainwater (1975); Burton Richter and Samuel C. C. Ting (1976); Philip W. Anderson and John H. Van Vleck (1977); Arno Penzias and Robert W. Wilson (1978); Steven Weinberg and Sheldon L. Glashow (1979); James W. Cronin and Val L. Fitch (1980); Nicolaas Bloembergen and Arthur L. Schawlow (1981); Kenneth G. Wilson (1982); Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and William A. Fowler (1983); Leon M. Lederman, Melvin Schwartz, and Jack Steinberger (1988); Norman Ramsey and Hans G. Dehmelt (1989); Jerome I. Friedman and Henry W. Kendall (1990); Joseph H. Taylor and Russell A. Hulse (1993); Clifford G. Shull (1994); Martin Pearl and Frederick Reines (1995); David M. Lee, Douglas D. Osheroff, and Robert C. Richardson (1996); Steven Chu and William D. Phillips (1997); Robert B. Laughlin and Daniel C. Tsui (1998); Jack S. Kilby (2000); Carl E. Wieman and Eric A. Cornell (2001).

Physiology or Medicine: Karl Landsteiner (1930); Thomas Hunt Morgan (1933); George R. Minot, William P. Murphy, George H. Whipple (1934); Edward Doisy (1943); Joseph Erlanger, Herbert S. Gasser (1944); Hermann J. Muller (1946); Carl and Gerty Cori (1947); Philip S. Hench, Edward C. Kendall (1950); Selman A. Waksman (1952); Fritz A. Lipmann (1953); John F. Enders, Thomas H. Weller, Frederick Robbins (1954); Dickinson W. Richards, André F. Cournand (1956); George W. Beadle, Edward L. Tatum, Joshua Lederberg (1958); Severo Ochoa, Arthur Kornberg (1959); Georg von Békésy (1961); James D. Watson (1962); Konrad Bloch (1964); Charles Huggins, Francis Peyton Rous (1966); Haldan K. Hartline, George Wald (1967); Robert W. Holley, H. Gobind Khorana, Marshall W. Nirenberg (1968); Max Delbruck, Alfred D. Hershey, Salvador E. Luria (1969); Julius Axelrod (1970); Earl W. Sutherland, Jr. (1971); Gerald M. Edelman (1972); Albert Claude, George E. Palade (1974); David Baltimore, Howard M. Temin, and Renato Dulbecco (1975); Baruch S. Blumberg and D. Carleton Gajdusek (1976); Rosalyn S. Yalow, Roger Guillemin, and Andrew V. Schally (1977); Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Smith (1978); Allan M. Cormack (1979); Baruj Benacerraf and George D. Snell (1980); Robert W. Sperry and David H. Hubel (1981); Barbara McClintock (1983); Michael S. Brown and Joseph Goldstein (1985); Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen (1986); Gertrude B. Elion and George Hitchings (1988); J. Michael Bishop and Harold E. Varmus (1989); Joseph E. Murray and E. Donnall Thomas (1990); Philip A. Sharp and Richard J. Roberts (1993); Alfred G. Gilman and Martin Rodbell (1994); Edward Lewis and Eric Wieschaus (1995); Stanley B. Prusiner (1997); Louis J. Ignarro, Ferid Murad, and Robert F. Furchgott (1998); Günter Blobel (1999); Paul Greengard, Eric R. Kandel, and Leland H. Hartwell (2001).


Fant, Kenne. Alfred Nobel: A Biography, trans. Marianne Ruuth. New York: Arcade, 1993.

Friedman, Robert Marc. The Politics of Excellence: Behind the Nobel Prize in Science. New York: Times Books, 2001.

Levinovitz, Agneta Wallin and Nils Ringertz, ed. The Nobel Prize: The First 100 Years. London: Imperial College Press, 2001.

W. A.Robinson/a. e.

See alsoBiochemistry ; Medicine and Surgery ; Physics ; Physiology .

Pulitzer Prizes

In a bequest to Columbia University, Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911), the Hungarian-born journalist and pioneering American newspaper publisher, provided for the establishment of the Pulitzer Prizes to encourage excellence in journalism, letters, and education. Recognizing the dynamic nature of American society and culture, Pulitzer also granted the prizes' advisory board significant powers to expand or alter the categories in which the prizes were to be awarded. Since their inception in 1917, the number of prize categories has grown from thirteen to twenty-one.

In 2002, prizes honored distinguished achievement in fourteen categories of journalism: meritorious public service for local, investigative, explanatory, and beat reporting; reporting on national affairs; reporting on international affairs; feature writing; commentary; criticism; editorial writing; editorial cartoons; and both breaking news photography and feature photography. Six categories recognized literary achievement in fiction, U.S. history, biography or autobiography, nonfiction in another category, poetry, and drama. In 1943 a prize honoring achievement in musical composition was added.

Each year the Pulitzer Prize competition receives more than two thousand entries for its twenty-one awards. To be eligible for the journalism awards, material submitted must have appeared in a U.S. newspaper published at least weekly. (Beginning in 1999, the board sanctioned the submission of electronically published material as well.) In the remaining categories, eligible writers or composers must be American citizens. Further preference is given to works dealing with American subjects. Appointed juries evaluate the entries for each category and nominate three finalists, in no ranked order, for final deliberation by the board. The nineteen-member board exercises considerable discretion; it may disregard a jury's recommendations or even decline to bestow an award.

Each winner receives a certificate and a cash prize of $7,500, except for the winner in public service, upon whom a gold medal is bestowed. Of greatest value, however, is the international recognition attached to the prizes—arguably the most prestigious and well-known in America.


Brennan, Elizabeth A., and Elizabeth C. Clarage. Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx, 1999.

Megan L.Benton

See alsoNewspapers .