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Museum Honors Negroponte: Media Lab Founder Receives Science Museum's Washburn Award

By Cristina Roussel


Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder and director of the MIT Media Lab, was awarded the Bradford Washburn Award by the Museum of Science at a dinner Monday.

“The highest prize bestowed by the Museum, it recognizes an individual from anywhere in the world and [his or her] vital contribution to the public understanding of science,” said Chairman of the Board Ira Stepanian.

“These individuals have the power to talk to us about very complicated things, and yet the average person can understand them,” Stepanian said. Negroponte embodies the “spirit of attainment and the quest itself.”

Media lab impacts many students

In his acceptance speech, Negroponte discussed his work at the MIT Media lab and the effect of computers on developing countries. The Media Lab has led in the development of digital video and multimedia and now focuses largely on how electronic information overlaps with the everyday world.

“There are about 3,000 years of acquaintances in this room,” Negroponte said.

Negroponte works with about 400 people total in the MIT Media lab, including 300 students. There are about 150 graduate students and 150 UROP students. “We are one of, if not the, biggest UROP employers at MIT,” Negroponte said.

In addition to his work at the Media lab, Negroponte has also written a 1995 best-seller, “Being Digital,” in which he charts the growth of media technology and makes predictions for its future. He is also the co-founder and a regular contributor to Wired Magazine.

Prize money to benefit children

Negroponte received a gold medal and a check for ten thousand dollars. The money will go towards 2B1, a foundation that enables children from developing countries access to computers and related technology. “A nation’s most precious natural resource is its children,” Negroponte said.

The Bradford Washburn Award is named in honor of the Museum’s director who served from 1939-1980. Previous Washburn recipients include Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Walter Cronkite, and Institute Professor Sheila E. Widnall ’60.