Two Stanford professors earn National Medal of Science

Thomas Kailath and Burton Richter have been awarded the nation's highest honor for achievement in the fields of science and engineering.

At the White House Friday morning, President Obama awarded the National Medal of Science to Stanford Professors Emeriti Thomas Kailath and Burton Richter. The award is the nation's highest honor for achievement in the fields of science and engineering.

"These scholars and innovators have expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields and helped improve countless lives," President Obama said in a press statement. "Our nation has been enriched by their achievements, and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry and invention."

Kailath and Richter will receive their medals, along with eight other awardees, at a White House ceremony later this year.

L.A. CiceroThomas Kailath

Thomas Kailath

Thomas Kailath, the Hitachi America Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, joined the Stanford faculty as an associate professor of electrical engineering in 1963. He was promoted to professor in 1968, and assumed emeritus status in 2001, but remains active with his research and writing.

Kailath's research and teaching at Stanford have covered several fields of engineering and mathematics, with a different focus roughly every decade: information theory, communications, linear systems, estimation and control, signal processing, semiconductor manufacturing, probability and statistics, and matrix and operator theory.

He has mentored an outstanding array of more than 100 doctoral and postdoctoral scholars. Their joint efforts have led to over 300 journal papers, several of which have received outstanding paper prizes. They have also led to a dozen patents and to several books and monographs, including the major textbooks Linear Systems and Linear Estimation.

"This is indeed a great honor for me, which I proudly share with my students and coauthors," Kailath said. "I am also grateful for the remarkably supportive environment of the Electrical Engineering department and the University."


Diana RogersBurton Richter

Burton Richter

Burton Richter's career at Stanford started in 1956 as a research associate in the High Energy Physics Laboratory. He became an assistant professor in the Physics Department in 1960, and is now the Paul Pigott Professor of Physical Sciences, Emeritus, at Stanford University. He joined SLAC as an associate professor and rose to technical director before becoming the leader of the laboratory from 1984 to 1999.

Richter shared the 1976 Nobel Prize in physics for discovery of a new heavy elementary particle, the J/psi particle, whose existence implied the existence of the charmed quark. In recent years Richter turned his attention to energy issues, and in 2010 was the author of Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century.

He is a member of the Department of Energy's Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee and chaired its Fuel Cycle subcommittee from 2000 to 2013, and was a member of the first President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Review Panel for the National Climate Change Assessment. He is a senior fellow at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

"I'm deeply honored, and I'm happy to be in such distinguished company," Richter said, and added with a laugh, "While Berkeley got three medals and Stanford got two, we did win the Big Game."

Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-1944, bccarey@stanford.edu