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AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy Honors Psychiatrists and Champions for Human Rights

David and Betty Hamburg
David and Betty Hamburg are honored for their championing of science diplomacy as a means of advancing science, human rights, peace and cooperation. | Courtesy Margaret Hamburg

The AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy has been renamed to honor two longtime champions for scientific advancement grounded in human rights: David and Betty Hamburg. The renaming of the AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy, announced April 15, also coincides with new funding secured by AAAS that will double the award prize to $10,000.

Since 1992, the award – then called the AAAS International Scientific Cooperation Award – has recognized individuals and small groups in the science, engineering or foreign affairs communities who have made outstanding contributions to the field of science diplomacy. In 2010, the award was renamed the AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy.

Today, the new award name honors two individuals who, through their long careers in science and medicine, championed science diplomacy as a means of advancing science, human rights, peace and cooperation.

“Renaming the Award for Science Diplomacy the AAAS David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy is an appropriate honor that acknowledges their accomplishments in science diplomacy, including Dr. David Hamburg’s work in the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy, which evolved into the present-day AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy,” said Kimberly Montgomery, AAAS director of international affairs and science diplomacy.

David and Beatrix “Betty” Hamburg met at Yale University in 1948 during their psychiatry residencies. Notably, Betty was the first African American woman to graduate from Yale medical school, while David, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, was a graduate of the University of Indiana School of Medicine.

The married couple went on to sweeping parallel careers across the realms of mental health research and health and science policy. David chaired the psychiatry department at Stanford University, taught at Harvard University and Weill Cornell Medical College, and served as president of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine and the Carnegie Corporation.

Betty, a pioneer in the field of adolescent psychiatry and peer counseling, held professorships at Stanford, Harvard, Mount Sinai and Weill Cornell. She also held a number of public health policy roles throughout her career, including the director of studies of the President’s Commission on Mental Health during Jimmy Carter’s presidency and the president of the William T. Grant Foundation, a social science research nonprofit focused on inequality.

“David and Betty were dedicated to two core principles in policy and diplomacy: the value of a strong evidence base and an emphasis on human rights,” said John Rowe, professor of health policy and aging at Columbia University, who worked closely with the Hamburgs throughout their careers.

These principles informed the Hamburgs’ work studying – and carrying out – international conflict resolution. In 1975, when three Stanford graduate students and another colleague were kidnapped in what was then Zaire, David Hamburg flew to Africa and negotiated for 10 weeks to free the hostages. The experience influenced their later work. As head of the Carnegie Corporation in the 1980s and 1990s, David worked to establish the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. Among the many books authored by the Hamburgs include 2004’s “Learning to Live Together: Preventing Hatred and Violence in Child and Adolescent Development,” written by David and Betty, and 2012’s “Give Peace a Chance: Preventing Mass Violence,” written by David in collaboration with the couple’s son, filmmaker Eric Hamburg.

In 1996, David was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, from President Bill Clinton for work on “understanding human behavior, preventing violent conflict, and improving the health and well-being of our children.” The pair were also honored jointly throughout their career, earning the Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Award in Mental Health from the Institute of Medicine in 2007 and the Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health in 2015.

“We are delighted to support the renaming of the AAAS science diplomacy award through a grant in honor of David and Betty Hamburg,” said Vartan Gregorian, who succeeded David Hamburg as president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, which granted $100,000 to support the award in its first year.

“We cannot think of a better way to pay tribute to their leadership and contributions to science, education and the prevention of war. David was a great intellectual who believed in America’s role as the standard bearer for democracy, human rights and peace. Betty’s groundbreaking work in children’s mental health continues to have a major impact on adolescent care. Together they helped the international community understand how scientific expertise can improve the human condition and international relations,” said Gregorian.

Their daughter, Margaret Hamburg, added, “My parents would be thrilled to know that this award for science diplomacy now bears their names. Over so many years, their work and their lives were informed by an unrelenting dedication to science, human rights and cooperation among people, communities and nations.

“With remarkable power, they were able to blend their medical/scientific knowledge and understanding of human behavior with a deep compassion and commitment to public service, such that their work touched not only individuals in need but also enabled new thinking about how to reduce dangerous stress and conflict on a global scale,” added Margaret, a former AAAS president.

The Hamburgs also served AAAS for many years. David Hamburg was elected to the AAAS Board of Directors in 1980 and to the AAAS presidency in 1985. Betty Hamburg served on the AAAS Board of Directors between 1987 and 1991. Both David and Betty Hamburg were honored as AAAS Fellows – he in 1982 and she in 1992 – in recognition of their research advances and their leadership in the scientific community. They were instrumental in the establishment of AAAS’ Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy, where David served as a visiting scholar. In 2008, the Center was renamed the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy.

Betty died at the age of 94 on April 15, 2018, and David died at the age of 93 just over a year later, on April 21, 2019.

The award that now bears the Hamburgs’ names has for many years been a prominent honor for science diplomacy practitioners. Recent winners include Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist specializing in the effects of climate change in the Amazon and a leader in science policy for a sustainable Amazon; Exequiel Ezcurra, whose interdisciplinary work at the United States-Mexico border has combined scientific research, education, outreach and policy; and five scientists who contributed to the founding and development of SESAME, the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East laboratory.

Said Montgomery, “The renaming recognizes the former and future awardees who build stronger relationships between and among the scientific and diplomatic communities – work that continues to bring Drs. David and Betty Hamburg’s vision of using science to initiate and strengthen diplomatic relationships to life.”

Nominations for the 2022 award open April 15, 2021. Details about eligibility, the nomination process and the selection of the winner are available on the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy website.



Andrea Korte

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