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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 15, 1995


President Clinton today announced Ugo Fano and Martin Kamen are the recipients of the 1995 Enrico Fermi Award. Fano, a chemist who discovered Carbon-14, and Kamen, an atomic physicist whose theories helped develop the laser, will receive presidential award which carries a $100,000 honorarium and a gold medal for each winner. The honor is the government's oldest science and technology award and is granted for a lifetime of achievement in the field of nuclear energy.

Ugo Fano, 83, will receive the award for pioneering contributions to the theory of atomic and radiation physics, work that has had great implications for the field of nuclear medicine. Martin Kamen, 82, will receive the award for his discovery of Carbon-14 and his development of its use as a tracer atom -- one of the most powerful research techniques of this century -- and for his work on photosynthesis.

Fano is one of the last living students who worked with Enrico Fermi, the award's namesake. Fano's research provided understanding that has been important to the development of both the gas laser, a tool now used in virtually all the physical and biological sciences, and radiation diagnostic and therapeutic medical applications. These developments were aided by Fano's work to achieve a better and deeper understanding of the structure of atoms and molecules and the ways they interact with light, electrons and each other. Nuclear medicine in particular benefitted from his invaluable contributions to understanding the interaction of radiation and matter.

A physicist, Fano is professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. Born in Torino, Italy in 1912, he earned his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Torino. His postdoctoral work with Fermi was at the University of Rome and with Werner Heisenberg at the University of Leipzig. After emigrating to the United States in 1939, he worked at the Washington Biophysical Institute, the Carnegie Institution and the National Bureau of Standards. He has been at the University of Chicago since 1966.

Martin Kamen's work changed biochemistry in a fundamental way -- Carbon-14 is used today to understand all biochemical reactions that involve carbon. Chemists, biologists, archaeologists, geologists and others use Carbon-14 for applications as varied as dating archaeological finds to tracking carbon dioxide in the environment. Kamen discovered the long-lived radioisotope in 1940 in collaboration with the late Sam Ruben. He developed Carbon-14 as a tracer in biological systems and used it in his own research to understand metabolism and photosynthesis.

A chemist, Kamen is professor emeritus at the University of California at San Diego and at the University of Southern California. He was born in 1913 in Toronto, Canada. He earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry and physical chemistry, respectively, from the University of Chicago. Kamen began his career as a radiochemist at the University of California at Berkeley's Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. In 1945, he began work at the Washington University School of Medicine and became professor of biochemistry at Brandeis University in 1957. In 1961, he became professor of chemistry at the University of California at San Diego; Kamen also taught at the University of Southern California from the mid-1970's.

The President approved the awards upon the recommendation of Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary after evaluation of candidates by a screening panel and an interagency awards committee. The Department of Energy administers the Fermi Award for the White House. Secretary O'Leary will present the awards in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. at a date to be announced.

The Fermi Award, which dates to 1956, honors the memory of Enrico Fermi, leader of the group of scientists who on December 2, 1942, achieved the first self-sustained, controlled nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago.

Additional information on the winners is available from the Department of Energy Press Office at (202) 586-5806.