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President Obama Presents National Medal of Science to David Mumford

November 23, 2010 

David Mumford, professor emeritus of applied mathematics at Brown University, received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House on November 17, 2010.

Winners of the 2010 National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor, were announced in October 2010 ("David Mumford Garners 2010 National Medal of Science," Math in the News, October 25, 2010).

"Every day, in research laboratories and on proving grounds, in private labs and university campuses, men and women conduct the difficult, often frustrating work of discovery," said President Obama before presenting the awards. "It isn’t easy.  It may take years to prove a hypothesis correct—or decades to learn that it isn’t correct.  Often the competition can be fierce—whether in designing a product or securing a grant.  And rarely do those who give their all to this pursuit receive the attention or the acclaim they deserve."

"Yet it is in these labs," continued the President, "often late at night, often fueled by a dangerous combination of coffee and obsession that our future is being won.  For in a global economy, the key to our prosperity will never be to compete by paying our workers less or building cheaper, lower-quality products.  That's not our advantage.  The key to our success—as it has always been—will be to compete by developing new products, by generating new industries, by maintaining our role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation.  It’s absolutely essential to our future."

The full transcript of the President's remarks at the award ceremony is available here.

A video of the full ceremony is available here.  

"Without prizes, science and mathematics have a tendency to live in a limbo," said Mumford in a recent video."And I think a medal like this is extremely important in making people know that science and math are there and are playing crucial roles in our society. But I am very conscious of the fact that science and math are large scale enterprises in which you are always working in a community of people and mathematics would die without getting ideas from science, science would die without getting ideas from mathematics."

Source: Today at Brown (November 17, 2010); White House Office of the Press Secretary (November 17, 2010)

Start Date: 
Tuesday, November 23, 2010