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Two retired MIT professors win Presidential Medal of Freedom

Earlier this week, Institute Professors Mildred Dresselhaus and Robert Solow were announced winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor and recognizes “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the executive order that first created the award.

The White House referred to Dresselhaus as “one of the most prominent physicists, materials scientists, and electrical engineers of her generation” for her work with carbon and research in condensed matter systems. Dresselhaus was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1990. In addition, she has previously served as the president of the American Physical Society as well as treasurer of the National Academy of Sciences.

Solow, who also won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1987, was credited for creating the foundation for much of modern economics and “demonstrating how smart investments, especially in new technology, can build broad-based prosperity” in addition to his continued participation “in contemporary debates about inequality and economic growth.”

Dresselhaus and Solow will receive their awards on Nov. 24, along with 17 other Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

Other notable winners this year include Ethel Kennedy, Isabel Allende, Tom Brokaw, Meryl Streep, and Stevie Wonder.

—Amy Wang