AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize
2008 Award Recipient
Richard A. Meserve
Richard A. Meserve
Richard A. Meserve was selected on the basis of his exemplary career in advancing and promoting the use of science in the service of the public interest and for his exceptional contributions to the scientific community, to policymakers, and to the general public, both in the U.S. and abroad.
The Philip Hauge Abelson Prize, established in 1985, is awarded either to a public servant, in recognition of sustained exceptional contributions to advancing science, or to a scientist whose career has been distinguished both for scientific achievement and for other notable services to the scientific community. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative medallion.
Richard Meserve’s remarkable background includes both a law degree from Harvard University (1975) and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford University (1976). Throughout his career, he has combined these two specialties to bring the practice of law to the aid of the scientific community and the public.
Dr. Meserve entered public service as legal counsel to the President’s science advisor (1977-81). In this period, which saw the second Middle East oil embargo and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, he provided advice to the highest levels of government on a broad array of important energy technology issues.
While at the law firm of Covington and Burling (1981-1999), Dr. Meserve also served as an advisor on energy matters, environmental and toxic-tort litigation, nuclear licensing, and ultimately helped to establish standards for admission of scientific testimony.
In 1999 Dr. Meserve became a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Subsequently, President Clinton appointed him Chairman of the Commission, a role in which he served until 2003. Dr. Meserve oversaw the revitalization of an agency that had been in decline, working to ensure a sound scientific basis for its actions. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, he provided leadership in addressing concerns about the security of the nation’s nuclear power plants.
In 2003 Dr. Meserve became president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, now known as the Carnegie Institution for Science, where he has been a tireless advocate for the institution’s cutting-edge research and outreach activities.
Dr. Meserve has found time to serve on, and in several cases to lead, a truly extraordinary number of panels, committees, and advisory groups. He served on the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board, for which he received the Secretary of Energy’s Gold Medal in 1999. On the international front, he was asked by the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to chair that group’s International Nuclear Safety Group (2003). An active member of AAAS, Dr. Meserve served six years on its Board of Directors. He is a Fellow of AAAS, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and of the International Nuclear Energy Academy.