The White House has announced that 10 individuals have been selected to receive the prestigious National Science Medal from President Obama at a ceremony in Washington later this year. The National Science Medal is administered for the President by the National Science Foundation. Created by statute in 1959, the medal honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering.
Among this year’s 10 recipients is the David Blackwell, who will be honored posthumously. Dr. Blackwell died in 2010 at the age of 91. He was a professor of statistics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Blackwell was the first African American to gain tenure at the University of California at Berkeley and in 1965 he was the first African American to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.
A native of Illinois, in 1935 Blackwell entered the University of Illinois at the age of 16. By 1941 he earned bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics. He then joined the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton but left after one year. He taught at Southern University and Atlanta University before joining the faculty at Howard University in 1944. He became a full professor and chair of the department of mathematics.
He joined the mathematics department at Berkeley in 1954 and stayed on the faculty there until retiring in 1988.