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2002 Philip Hauge Abelson Prize Recipient

2002 Award Recipients

AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize


This year’s recipient of the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize is the Honorable Vernon J. Ehlers, United States House of Representatives. He is honored for his consistent public service to science, science policy, and science education at all levels of government.

Dr. Vernon Ehlers is the first research nuclear physicist to serve in Congress having been elected to the 103rd Congress in a special election in 1993 and, most recently, was sworn into office on January 7, 2003. Of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ehlers came to Congress having a distinguished tenure of service in higher education, scientific research, and community service. He has served on various boards and commissions and was a member of the Michigan House and Senate, first entering local elective politics to address area landfill problems. His voice and vote consistently remind lawmakers on Capitol Hill of the profoundly important role that science plays in the modern world and the federal support that makes this pursuit of new knowledge possible.

As a member of the 108th Congress and serving his sixth term, Ehlers serves on four committees. He returns to the Science Committee, where he serves as chair of the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. While on the Science Committee in 1997-1998, he was selected to rewrite the nation’s science policy. Many consider the study, “Unlocking Our Future: Toward a New National Science Policy,” as the first full statement on federal science and technology policy by the U.S. Congress, as well as the most comprehensive examination of this area by any part of government since 1945.

Ehlers also serves on the Education and the Workforce Committee where he blends his efforts with the Science Committee to improve mathematics and science education. He introduced the National Science Education Acts aimed at reforming our nation’s K-12 science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education. Not only has he pursued this as a matter of public policy, he has spent considerable time in schools promoting science and mathematics to children. As a member of the House Administration Committee, he led the effort to revitalize the House computer system, connect it to the Internet, and allow all citizens access to House documents.

Ehlers received his undergraduate degree in physics after three years of studying at Calvin College, and his doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1960. Following six years of teaching and research at Berkeley, he returned to Calvin College in 1966 to teach physics, later becoming chair of the physics department there. His many honors include the National Association for Children’s Hospital Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Calvin College, and the Federal 100 Award. He is also a fellow of the American Physical Society.