The Draper Prize

About the Draper Prize

The Charles Stark Draper Prize was established and endowed by Draper Laboratory in 1988 in tribute to its founder, Dr. Charles Stark Draper, who pioneered inertial navigation. It is intended to honor those who have contributed to the advancement of engineering and to improve public understanding of the importance of engineering and technology.

Administered by the National Academy of Engineering, the international prize is the engineering profession’s highest honor, and it is given for engineering achievements and their reduction to practice in ways that have significantly impacted society by improving the quality of life, providing the ability to live freely and comfortably, and/or permitting access to information. The $500,000 prize can be awarded for achievement in any engineering discipline. Originally biennial, the Prize is now awarded annually.

Nomination Process

Nominations of candidates for the Prize, awarded to living persons from any country, are sought from members and foreign associates of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, and Institute of Medicine; members and foreign associates of academies of engineering worldwide; members of recognized U.S. and international engineering societies; and other individuals deemed eligible by the National Academy of Engineering. Recipients of the Prize are chosen by a committee of members of the National Academy of Engineering who represent a broad spectrum of engineering disciplines.

The U.S. NAE is the preeminent engineering honorific society in the country, whose elected members are among the most accomplished in the engineering profession. It is with the use of this expertise and knowledge that the NAE forms the awarding-committee for the Draper Prize, with the NAE President appointing a committee from the ranks of NAE membership to serve rotating three-year terms. This group, representing the entire engineering profession and at times including a past Draper Prize winner, consists of leaders of the respective engineering disciplines, and carefully considers all nominees and performs due diligence before selecting a winner.

The History and importance of the Draper Prize was addressed by Henry Petroski in the March/April 1994 issue of American Scientist.

For more information on the nomination process, contact the Awards Office at the National Academy of Engineering at 202-334-1266.

Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce display their medals at the first Draper Prize awards ceremony in 1989.

Excerpt from a letter from President William Clinton which was read on February 20, 1996, at the presentation of the 1995 Draper Prize to John Pierce and Harold Rosen for their inventions in communication satellite technology.

“This prestigious award honors those engineers who, often against great odds, explore a new world of possibilities. Pioneers like Pierce and Rosen have taken that exploration further by transforming scientific knowledge into improvements in communication, mobility, education, environment, security and entertainment - enriching our lives, broadening our minds, and increasing our opportunities to prosper.”

President William J. Clinton
February 20, 1996