About the Medal
The Karl Taylor Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics was established by the American Institute of Physics in 1957 for "...occasional conferment upon some distinguished physicist who has made an outstanding contribution to physics. The award should be given not necessarily for distinguished research, but for outstanding statesmanship in science." The award is named for Karl Taylor Compton in honor of his service to the physics community.
Intended primarily for U.S. physicists, the award is given every four years and consists of a medal, a certificate, and a cash award of $10,000. The award is supported by a restricted/endowed fund.
Current Compton Medal winner
Robert J. Birgeneau is the 2012 recipient of the Karl T. Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics. The citation reads, "The Karl T. Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics is awarded to Robert J. Birgeneau
“for his leadership in improving the situation for women in science in the United States and around the world, his efforts to enhance diversity in science, and for deepening our understanding of magnetism and its interplay with other states of matter.”
Birgeneau is an internationally distinguished physicist and a leader in higher education. In 1998, when Birgeneau was Dean of Science at M.I.T., he authorized A Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT, proposed by women science faculty members. The study produced an influential 1999 report, and the recommendations were implemented with the strong support of Dean Birgeneau. A standing committee on women’s issues was subsequently established, and major changes have taken place at M.I.T. as a result. The study has had a large impact beyond M.I.T. and has been quoted nationally and internationally. Birgeneau has continued to support women by setting up many follow-up committees.
Under Birgeneau, UC Berkeley has been a leader in fostering a family-friendly workplace for faculty, students and staff, and the campus established the University of California system’s first initiatives to address the work-family issues of faculty and graduate students. UC Berkeley’s “family-friendly package” includes tenure-track stoppage of one year for faculty parents with caregiving responsibilities for a newborn or new adoptee.
He was elected to membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, the American Philosophical Society, and other scholarly societies.