Mary-Claire King to receive National Medal of Science

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Mary-Claire King to receive National Medal of Science

UW professor is world leader in cancer genetics, discovered BRCA1 gene for inherited breast cancer
Brian Donohue

The White House today announced that Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., a University of Washington professor of medicine (medical genetics) and genome sciences, will receive the National Medal of Science. 

President Obama named nine recipients of the National Medal of Science and eight recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. They are the nation's highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology. Honorees will receive the award at a White House ceremony in early 2016. 

The honor, given annually, was established in 1959 to recognize individuals' "outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences." In 1980 Congress expanded this recognition to include the social and behavioral sciences. The award is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. 

Mary-Claire King
Mary-Claire King has applied her genetics expertise to aid victims of human rights violations around the world.
picture of Mary-Claire King

King is a world leader in cancer genetics and in the application of genetics to resolution of human rights abuses. She was the first to demonstrate that a genetic predisposition for breast cancer exists, as the result of inherited mutations in the gene she named BRCA1. More recently she has devised with Dr. Tom Walsh, a UW associate professor of medical genetics, a scheme to screen for all genes that predispose to breast and ovarian cancers.

King will become the fifth UW faculty member so honored. Previous UW winners are E. Donnall Thomas, Medicine (1990); Hans Dehmelt, Physics (1995); Richard Karp, Computer Science and Engineering (1996); and Ernest Davidson, Chemistry (2001). Thomas and Dehmelt also won Nobel Prizes.

The National Medal of Science historically has been awarded to seven to 12 individuals in a given year, mostly scientists from prominent U.S. universities. 

In 2014, King received the prestigious Lasker Award Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science. See related story.

The new recipients are listed below. 

National Medal of Science

  • Armand Paul Alivisatos, University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
  • Michael Artin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts
  • Albert Bandura, Stanford University, California
  • Stanley Falkow, Stanford University School of Medicine, California
  • Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York
  • Rakesh K. Jain, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Mary-Claire King, University of Washington
  • Simon Levin, Princeton University, New Jersey
  • Geraldine Richmond, University of Oregon

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

  • Joseph DeSimone, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Carbon3D, California
  • Robert Fischell, University of Maryland at College Park, Maryland
  • Arthur Gossard, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Nancy Ho, Green Tech America, Inc. and Purdue University, Indiana
  • Chenming Hu, University of California, Berkeley, California
  • Mark Humayun, University of Southern California
  • Cato T. Laurencin, University of Connecticut
  • Jonathan Rothberg, 4catalyzer Corporation and Yale School of Medicine, Connecticut