Three Harvard science professors last week were among 20 scholars awarded the 1988 National Medal of Science by President Reagan in a White House ceremony.
The Harvard professors are: Higgins Professor of Biochemistry, Emeritus Konrad E. Bloch; Emery Professor of Organic Chemistry Elias J. Corey; and Higgins Professor of Physics, Emeritus Norman F. Ramsey.
Both Bloch and Corey said yesterday that their receipt of the medal marks a change in the nature of the award, which is usually given to scientists who have served the government in some capacity. Bloch and Corey described themselves as academicians who have never worked for the government and said they were surprised they received the award. Ramsey could not be reached for comment.
"There has been a change," Bloch said, referring to what he called the "shifting emphasis" away from giving the award only to those scientists who have served the government.
"You are the men and women who are leading us into this new era of information and technology. You are the builders, the dreamers, the heroes," Reagan told the recipients of the award during a rose garden ceremony on Friday, according to the White House Office of Media Relations.
Bloch received the award for "his discovery of the principle of suicide inhibitors for enzymes and for an example of that principle. His discovery points the way to the rational design of therapeutic agents," a White House press release describing the achievements of the recipients.
Corey, in the release, was cited "for his strikingly original contributions to organic synthesis, which have brought the science of organic chemistry to a new level of power and precision."
Ramsey was praised in the release "for his seminal investigations in broad areas of atomic, molecular and nuclear physics, and for his dedicated service to the nation and to the scientific community."
Bloch, who came to Harvard in 1954, was a co-recipient of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. He chaired the Biochemistry Department from 1968 to 1971, and retired from Harvard in 1982. From 1966-69, he chaired the biochemistry section of the National Academy of Sciences. He said his work has aided in the development of a compound that cures sleeping sickness, a fatal disease found most commonly in Africa.
Corey came to Harvard in 1959 and chaired the Chemistry Department from 1965-68. His more than 30 awards include the 1986 Wolf Foundation Prize for chemistry, given in Israel.
Ramsey joined Harvard's faculty in 1947, chairing the Harvard Nuclear Physics Committee from 1948-64. He retired from Harvard in 1983.