Lab Canada

Dr John Polanyi wins Canada’s most prestigious science award

Ottawa, ON – Nobel Laureate John C Polanyi is the winner of the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Canada’s most prestigious science prize.

Named for Canadian Nobel Laureate Gerhard Herzberg, the annual prize guarantees the winner $1 million in research funding over the next five years. The prize is presented by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

After sharing the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for trailblazing a path to chemical lasers, Dr Polanyi continues to make important breakthroughs, including discoveries that could revolutionize the way we manipulate molecules.

A University of Toronto chemistry professor, his long list of honours includes being named an officer, and then a companion, of the Order of Canada, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Royal Society of London. His brilliance in science is complemented by a wide range of interests and a keen social conscience. He is a founding member of both the Committee on Scholarly Freedom of the Royal Society and the Canadian Committee for Scientists and Scholars, a human rights organization of which he is president.

“The NSERC Herzberg Medal recognizes Canadian researchers whose work embodies the same combination of influence and excellence exemplified by Dr Herzberg during his lifetime,” says Dr Suzanne Fortier, president of NSERC. “John Polanyi certainly epitomizes these values, through his research, as well as through his work in shedding new light on the social implications of science.”

The other finalists for the NSERC Herzberg Medal were Dr. Gilles Brassard of the Universite de Montreal and Dr. Graham Bell of McGill University. They will each receive a $50,000 research grant. As first-time finalists, Dr Polanyi and Dr Bell will also receive the NSERC award of excellence.

For an interview with Dr Polanyi, visit NSERC’s website at