APS News

Leo Szilard Lectureship Award is Funded

Leo Szilard
Leo Szilard
Leo Szilard Award Dolphin Statue. The dolphin is a reference to Szilard's novelette, The Voice of the Dolphins.
Leo Szilard Award 'Dolphin' Statue. The dolphin is a reference to Szilard's novelette, The Voice of the Dolphins.

The APS has received nearly $70,000 for the purpose of endowing a Leo Szilard Lectureship Award, intended to provide exposure for physicists who have applied their science for the benefit of society. Starting with the APS Centennial Meeting this March, the recipient of this lectureship (formerly the unfunded Leo Szilard Award) will receive a $1000 honorarium and travel money for lectures at least two institutions whose audiences include young physicists. Any living physicist is eligible, and nominations are active for three years.

According to William Colglazier Jr., Chair of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, the rationale for the lectureship is to increase the visibility of physicists working for the public good and thereby to provide positive role models. Public policy issues increasingly involve a scientific or technical component: In addition to questions of energy use and nuclear weapons, citizens are now asked to evaluate the evidence for global warming, the possible health effects of power lines, the claims for and against new medical technologies and even the risk of asteroid impacts.

"In the dawn of the nuclear age, prominent physicists led the debate over the control of nuclear weapons; subsequently physicists lent their insights to the discussion of such issues as the safety of nuclear power, the antiballistic missile treaty and Star Wars," said David Hafemeister, 1996 recipient of the Szilard Award and a former Chair of FPS. "But physicists involved in public service seem to be less visible today, so that younger physicists have fewer positive examples to follow."

At the same time, he added, young PhDs are under great pressure to get and keep a job, and they are often shown only traditional paths. "We would like to expose them to new directions, introducing them to many individuals who have done excellent physics to solve or elucidate problem of importance to society."

The endowment goal was reached through the generosity of several individuals and foundations, including the Packard Foundation, the Energy Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. Additional contributions from the APS membership are welcome.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Barrett H. Ripin