Draper Prize, in full Charles Stark Draper Prize, award given by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for specific engineering achievements that have significantly affected modern society “by improving the quality of life, providing the ability to live freely and comfortably, and/or permitting access to information.” The prize is given in honour of the 20th-century American aeronautical engineer Charles Stark Draper (1901–87) and is endowed by a research laboratory founded by Draper in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The award consists of a gold medal and $500,000.
The prize is awarded for achievements in any engineering discipline. Winners have included Sir Frank Whittle and Hans von Ohain, inventors of the first working jet engines; Sir Tim Berners-Lee, credited with founding the World Wide Web; and Frances H. Arnold and Willem P.C. Stemmer, bioengineers whose work in directed evolution has allowed biological molecules with specific properties to be produced in quantity for creating products ranging from pharmaceuticals to biofuels. Candidates are nominated each year by members of engineering and science associations in the United States and around the world, and winners are selected by specially convened committees of NAE members. The prize is open to nominees of all nationalities. It is awarded not for lifetime work but for specific achievements, and it is not awarded posthumously.
The Draper Prize grew out of a long-standing dissatisfaction that the Nobel Prizes do not include an award for engineering. With a sizable cash endowment, the Draper Prize has come to be considered one of the most prestigious awards for engineering in the world, and its presentation is considered to be a valuable tool for improving the public’s understanding of engineering and technology. From 1989 to 2001 the awarding of the prize was a biennial event; it subsequently occurred annually.
Winners of the Draper Prize are listed in the table.
Draper Prize winners year name country achievement *No Draper Prize was awarded the previous year. 1989 Jack Kilby United States for their independent development of the integrated circuit (IC) Robert Noyce United States 1991 Hans von Ohain Germany for their independent development of the jet engine Frank Whittle United Kingdom 1993 John Warner Backus United States for the development of the computer language FORTRAN 1995 John R. Pierce United States for the development of satellite communication technology Harold A. Rosen United States 1997 Vladimir Haensel United States for the invention of catalytic reforming using a platinum catalyst 1999 Charles K. Kao United Kingdom/United States for the development of fibre optics Robert D. Maurer United States John B. MacChesney United States 2001 Vinton Cerf United States for the development of the Internet Robert Kahn United States Leonard Kleinrock United States Lawrence Roberts United States 2002 Robert S. Langer United States for the development of biocompatible polymeric drug delivery systems 2003 Bradford W. Parkinson United States for the development of the global positioning system (GPS) Ivan A. Getting United States 2004 Alan Kay United States for the development of the first practical networked personal computers Butler W. Lampson United States Robert W. Taylor United States Charles P. Thacker United States 2005 Minoru ("Sam") Araki United States for the design, development, and operation of the Corona satellite system Francis J. Madden United States Edward A. Miller United States James W. Plummer United States Don H. Schoessler United States 2006 Willard Boyle Canada for the invention of the charge-coupled device (CCD) George E. Smith United States 2007 Tim Berners-Lee United Kingdom for the development of the World Wide Web (WWW) 2008 Rudolf Kalman United States for the development of the data-refining technique known as Kalman filtering 2009 Robert H. Dennard United States for the invention of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) 2011* Frances H. Arnold United States for their individual contributions to the bioengineering process known as directed evolution Willem P.C. Stemmer United States 2012 T. Peter Brody United States for their individual contributions to the development of the liquid crystal display (LCD) George H. Heilmeier United States Wolfgang Helfrich Germany Martin Schadt Switzerland 2013 Martin Cooper United States for their individual contributions to the development of the cellular telephone Joel S. Engel United States Richard H. Frenkiel United States Thomas Haug Sweden Okumura Yoshihisa Japan 2014 John B. Goodenough United States for their individual contributions to the development of the lithium-ion battery Nishi Yoshio Japan Rachid Yazami France Yoshino Akira Japan 2015 Akasaki Isamu Japan for their individual contributions to the invention, development, and commercialization of materials and processes for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) M. George Craford United States Russell Dupuis United States Nick Holonyak, Jr. United States 2016 Andrew J. Viterbi United States for development of the Viterbi algorithm 2018* Bjarne Stroustrup Denmark for conceptualizing and developing the C++ programming language 2020* Jean Fréchet France/United States for the invention, development, and commercialization of chemically amplified materials for micro- and nanofabrication C. Grant Willson United States
This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen.