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Origins of the Edison Medal on its 100th Anniversary: Introduction

The Edison medal is the most prestigious award given in the United States and Canada recognizing meritorious accomplishments in the fields of electronics and electrical engineering. The year 2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the medal named in honor of America's most famous inventor, Thomas Alva Edison. Edison's work exemplifies the development of large scale industrial research laboratories, the creation of new technology and the installation of the first complete electrical systems in the 19th century. Over its history, many of the most important contributors to the development of electronics have been presented the Edison Medal in recognition of their critical roles in laying the foundations of the modern electrical world. This article presents the story of the Edison Medal, its origins and its legacy of honor.

Thomas Alva Edison. (Photo by Bachrach. Miller, 1931)
Thomas Alva Edison. (Photo by Bachrach. Miller, 1931)

Edison at the Turn of the Century

By the end of the 19th century, Thomas Alva Edison had achieved fame, wealth and notoriety. He was known as the "Wizard of Menlo Park" for the many inventions that originated from his research laboratory in New Jersey; including the phonograph and electric light. In 1886, Edison relocated to a new, larger facility in West Orange, New Jersey. A small laboratory was also set up in 1886 at his new summer home in Fort Myers, Florida. Increasingly, he focused his attention on refining the phonograph and on his new film and motion picture businesses. Edison's work on the alkaline battery and his Portland cement operations also looked promising. The 1903 release of the film The Great Train Robbery put Edison into the headlines again. Edison's list of accomplishments was well established, and he was a household name in America and in Europe. His long standing and well publicized feud with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla over the effectiveness of alternating versus direct current did not seem to diminish his public image. And, by the opening years of the 20th century, those battles too were subsiding.[1]

Origins of the Edison Medal

1904 barked the 25th anniversary of the Edison incandescent lamp. Samuel Insull, Charles Batchelor and a group of Edison's friends, former employees and associates decided to commemorate the anniversary on the occasion of Edison's birthday.[2] Edison, 71, Honored By Old Associates. The first meeting of the Executive Committee formed to organize the event were held in December 1903 as the group rushed to prepare for Edison's February 11, 1904 birthday.[3]

The Executive Committee quickly prepared a circular to solicit contributions. The circular, dated January 1, 1904, identified Samuel Insull as the Chairman and Charles Batchelor as Vice-Chairman of the Edison Medal Association. It also named the 30 member Executive Committee and 124 additional members of the Edison Association. Among the notables identified were J. Pierpont Morgan, R.A. Fessenden, W.S. Mallory, Frank Sprague and Nikola Tesla. The group planned to name an endowed academic medal after Edison that would be awarded through the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE). The AIEE would act as trustee of the medal.

The Edison Medal Association intended to raise $7,000 to fund the medal and expenses of the association, of which $5,000 would represent the principal balance of the endowment. Annual interest on the balance would fund future expenses and annual awards. The Executive Committee set an impossibly short time frame of only 30 days to solicit subscriptions. [4]

The Executive Committee faced logistical difficulties in completing all their preparations before the February celebration. The selected the National Sculpture Society to assist with the medal design; but, at the close of January 1904, the subcommittees responsible for the medal design had not selected an appropriate image of Edison or decided on a sculptor for the Medal.[5] Given the impending date of the celebration, the Committee decided it would formally present the legal agreement establishing the Edison Medal and convey the trusteeship of the Edison Medal to the AIEE without presenting the medal itself.[6] The Committee rushed to draft their Deed of Gift ("Deed") over the next three weeks.

1904 subscription for Edison Medal (Documents, 1904a)
1904 subscription for Edison Medal (Documents, 1904a)

The Deed and corresponding rules governing the Edison Medal specified that the Edison Medal Association would annually recognize a student graduating from any U.S. or Canadian university or military academy who presented the best thesis on an original topic about theoretical applied electricity and magnetism. Competition was restricted to no more than two students from any one institution. Each student had to complete at least two years of residence and coursework at the university and be no older than 25 years of age. The thesis was restricted to 6,000 words (approximately 20 typed pages). The award would be presented annually on Edison's birthday, February 11. The Deed also specified that the Edison Medal Association, under the auspices of the National Sculpture Society, would host a competition to finalize the medal's design after Edison's birthday.[7][8]

Edison Celebration

Five hundred people attended the commemorative dinner on February 11, 1904 celebrating Thomas Edison's 57th birthday and the 25th anniversary of the Edison incandescent light. The affair was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Addresses were made by the President of the AIEE, B.J. Arnold, and A.E. Kennelly of Harvard University, C.F. Brackett of Princeton University, Joseph McCall and C.L. Edgar. Samuel Insull presented the Deed of Gift inaugurating the Edison Medal. [9][10]

Edison sat under a display of flags and 57 electric lamps. According to eyewitness accounts, he was reserved in public and too modest to speak. Sugar models of his inventions were placed on tables in front of him. Edison's original telegraph key and quadruplex sender sat on the table in front of Edison positioned at his right hand. Wires stretched across the room to a Marconi wireless transmitting apparatus. Thousands of electric bulbs were strung along the galleries. Over one hundred waiters served ices "contained in models of motors, phonographs, switchboards, automobiles, incandescent apparatus, dynamos, megaphones, and batteries, the ices themselves being in the form of incandescent bulbs." Each guest went home with a small ivory box with a woman bearing a light and inscribed "Genius with the Lamp" or a miniature incandescent lamp pin. The menus included a picture of a bronze bust of Edison with the words "The Wizard" with Edison's autograph below the image.[11][10]

Congratulatory messages were received from notables around the world. Andrew Carnegie called Edison the "King of Telegraphers". President Theodore Roosevelt congratulated Edison "as one of those Americans to whom America owes much..." Lord Kelvin cited his "gratitude to Edison [for his] useful and well worked-out inventions for the public". Finally, Edison's own message of thanks was read aloud. It stated, in part, "...Your expressions of goodwill gratify me greatly...This medal is founded to encourage young men to devote their best thought and work to electrical development. I rejoice in this stimulus to harder study...God bless them and you, my dear friends, and this American Institute of Electrical Engineers."[11]

The highlight of the evening occurred with Edison telegraphed "73 - Congratulations and best wishes" on his original quadruplex telegraph instrument. The message was carried across the wires and broadcast by the Marconi wireless equipment.[10][11] Samuel Insull, Chairman of the Edison Medal Association, then formally presented the Deed of Gift to Professor Arthur Kennelly who received it on behalf of the AIEE.

The Medal's First Years

The medal was intended to "serve as an honorable incentive to the youth of America to maintain by their works the high standard of accomplishment by the illustrious man whose name and features shall live while human intelligence continues to inhabit the world."[8] The annual student award was to include a parchment certificate and a gold medal funded by the annual interest earnings on the gift. Unfortunately, after the 104 celebration, little progress was made.

The gift fund was deposited with the Continental Trust Company of New York. But three years passed and no medals were awarded. In February 1907, the Edison Medal Committee appointed a subcommittee "to propose a statement of the difficulties that the Committee had experienced in obtaining competitors for the medal under the present Deed of Gift and to recommend to the Medal Committee such might seem proper in their judgment under the circumstances." [12]

The John Fritz Medal

Meanwhile, as the Edison Medal languished, the John Fritz Medal, the highest American award in the engineering profession, was being presented each year. Established in 1902, it recognized scientific or industrial achievement in any field of pure or applied science. Fritz had achieved fame and recognition for his development of American iron and steel manufacturing. The John Fritz Medal was established on Fritz's 80th birthday by the American Institute of Mining Engineers (AIME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE).[13]

John Fritz Medal. John Fritz and his legacy. (2005, March 15 - May 2).  Lehigh University Special Collections Exhibition. John Fritz Medal: John W. Fisher Medalist For 2000 Program.  See
John Fritz Medal. John Fritz and his legacy. (2005, March 15 - May 2). Lehigh University Special Collections Exhibition. John Fritz Medal: John W. Fisher Medalist For 2000 Program. See

The Fritz Medal eventually included the American Association of Engineering Studies (AAES) as well, and rotated among all five engineering societies that made up the successor organizations. The first four Fritz Medals were given to John Fritz (1902), Lord Kelvin (1905), George Westinghouse (1906) and Alexander Graham Bell (1907).

Thomas Edison received the fifth Fritz Medal in 1908 for his "invention of the duplex and quadruplex telegraph; the phonograph; the development of a commercially practical incandescent lamp; the development of a complete system of electric lighting, including dynamos, regulating devices, underground system protective devices and meters."[14]

Edison Medal Restructured

In 1908, the Executive Committee of the Edison Medal Association now decided to revamp its medal's rules and intended purpose. Arthur Kennelly later explained that between 1904 and 1908 a shortage of applicants led to the absence of qualified candidates under the existing rules which focused the award on student recipients.[15] The Committee responded by redefining the medal's purpose and executed an Amended and Substitute Deed of Gift Creating The Edison Medal ("Amended Deed') in New York on March 26, 1908.[16]

The new deed re-established the Edison Medal in partnership with the New York Trust Company and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE). It reasserted that the medal "should, during the centuries to come, serve as an honorable incentive to scientists, engineers and artisans to maintain by their works the high standard of accomplishment set by the illustrious man whose name and features shall live while human intelligence continues to inhabit the world." The Amended Deed also re-wrote the rules and established that the AIEE would present the medal as its award for "...MERITORIOUS ACHIVEMENT [emphasis in document] in Electrical Science or Electrical Engineering or the Electrical Arts, whenever in the judgment of said Committee [there is someone] properly deserving of such award..."[17] Revisions to the Committee's bylaws commenced in October 1908, and the final draft was presented to the Board of Directors on December 11, 1908.[18] The Board approved the minutes on May 18, 1909, making operative the revised by-laws and new rules.[19] Later, the AIEE appointed a jury of 24 members to select the recipient of the award.[15]

A Design for the Medal

The 1904 Edison Medal Committee had initiated a Programme and Rules governing its competition to select an appropriate design for the medal.[20] Working under the auspices of the National Sculpture Society, designs were invited within a general scheme that specified Thomas Edison's portrait would dominate the face of the medal and an allegorical design would appear on the reverse side. Edison's image would date from the time of his incandescent light, approximately 25 years earlier. A prize of $1,000 would be awarded to the selected artist for production of the medal. Designs were due from April 25-30, 1904, with a decision to be rendered within one month. The jury for the competition included Daniel C. French[21], Augustus Saint Gaudens[22] and J.Q.A. Ward[23] of the National Sculpture Society and Edward Adams and T. Commerford Martin on behalf of the Edison Medal Association.[20]

The design contest was administered late in 1904, and on Nov. 11, 1904, James Earle Fraser[24], a New York sculptor and medallion designer, was informed by St. Gaudens that he was the unanimous selection of the jury. St. Gaudens asked Fraser to provide several sketches "showing modifications to your present idea, or of new ones that may occur".[25]

1904 Programme and Rules for the Edison Medal Design (Documents, 1904c)
1904 Programme and Rules for the Edison Medal Design (Documents, 1904c)

The final design featured both Edison and an allegorical symbol of merit. The obverse (face) features Edison's portrait and is inscribed "Awarded By The American Institute of Electrical Engineers for Meritorious Achievement In Electricity". The reverse (back) depicts "The Genius of Electricity Crowned by Fame" showing an angel standing behind a male nude and a glowing Edison light sitting on a pedestal.[26][27][25] The Amended Deed specified that the AIEE would retain a die for future production and reproduction of the gold medal.[17]

First Recipient in 1909

Prior to issuing the Amended Deed which redefined the Edison Medal, five graduate students who had qualified to compete for the medal under the old 1904 rules had submitted their theses. Since the medal had been restructured to focus on lifetime achievement instead of student work, the five candidates were asked to withdraw from the medal competition in 1908. They were allowed to resubmit their theses in a special contest to receive a Diploma of Merit plus a $150 cash award issued by the AIEE.[18] On May 18, 1909, Trygve Jensen, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, won the Diploma of Merit for his research on the "Operation of a 100,000 Volt Transformer."[19]

Finally, five years after the initial 1904 organization of the Edison Medal Association, the Committee was ready to officially name its first Edison Metal recipient.[28] Dr. Elihu Thomson was cited for his "meritorious achievement in electrical science, engineering and arts as exemplified in his contributions thereto during the past 30 years."[19] [29] Thomson's accomplishments included approximately 700 patents, work on electric arc lighting, establishing the Thomson-Houston Electric Company (which would eventually merge with the Edison General Electric Company to become General Electric Company), the Thomson Electric Meter, alternating current devices, the electric air drill, and methods of electric arc welding. In the 1890s, Thomson investigated X-rays and performed research on fused quartz for use in reflecting astronomical telescopes. Thomson was active in the AIEE, contributed to many other societies and received the John Fritz Medal in 1916. He later become the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[30] The Edison Medal Association presented Thomson with a parchment certificate constituting official notice of the award at the AIEE's annual dinner on February 24,1910. He received the gold Edison Medal at the AIEE's annual meeting on May 17.[19]

Conflicts and Controversy

The First Edison Medal Awarded to Elihu Thomson In 1909
The First Edison Medal Awarded to Elihu Thomson In 1909

The Edison Medal has been awarded annually since 1909 with the exception of 1915, 1926, 1964 and 2003. The 1926 medal was actually rejected by the named recipient, Dr. William Coolidge, who refused to accept the medal in light of a U.S. Circuit Court decision invalidating his patent on ductile-<leo_highlight leohighlights_url="http%3A//" leohighlights_keywords="tungsten" onmouseout="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOut('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" onmouseover="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOver('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" onclick="leoHighlightsHandleClick('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" id="leoHighlights_Underline_0" style="border-bottom: 2px solid rgb(255, 255, 150); background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; cursor: pointer; display: inline; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;">tungsten</leo_highlight>. The decision stated that a patent (for an invention) could not be awarded for a scientific discovery. The Edison Medal Committee still tried to award the medal, but Dr. Coolidge refused to "detract from the luster of that medal which should stand as one of the most coveted prizes for meritorious work in the electrical field."[31]

Ironically, most of the Edison Medal awards in its first ten years went to pioneers or supporters of alternating current and arc lightning technologies even though Edison's long standing opposition to alternating current systems was well known and had garnered many newspaper headlines.[32][33] The rules did not require Edison to present the award, and he was not involved with the award committee's selection of recipients. The following innovators of alternating current technology received Edison Medals during its first decade: Elihu Thomson (1909), Frank Sprague (1910), George Westinghouse (1911), William Stanley (1912), Charles Brush (1913), Nikola Tesla (1916) and Michael Pupin (1920).[28]

George Westinghouse received the 1911 Edison Medal for his groundbreaking work developing alternating current systems for power distribution and lighting. After nearly 25 years of battling Westinghouse over the alternating current versus direct current systems, Edison offered Westinghouse no congratulations at the ceremony.[33] Westinghouse ignored Edison stating that "If I have had any success in life it has been due to my wife."[32]

In 1917, the Edison Medal was presented to another former Edison rival, Nikola Tesla, for his development of polyphase and high frequency electric currents.[34][35] Rumors had circulated in 1915 that both Tesla and Edison might jointly share the Nobel Prize in Physics. Though unconfirmed by the Nobel Committee, Tesla allegedly rejected the award and would have nothing to do with Edison. Contradictory stories followed. Soon thereafter, the 1915 Nobel Prize was presented to two British scientists.[36]

The following year, the Edison Medal Association selected Tesla as its 1916 medal recipient. Although Tesla was listed on the original 1904 Edison Medal General Committee subscription[4], he was now unwilling to receive an award named after Edison. Tesla further thought that his contributions to wireless telegraphy and radio had been slighted since Guglielmo Marconi had already received the Nobel Prize in 1909 with Carl F. Braun. Tesla initially refused the nomination in anger, but later agreed to accept the Edison Medal after his friends at the AIEE pled with him to overcome years of hostility, bitterness, and competitive rivalry with Edison. [37] Tesla stunned the audience at the presentation ceremony when he graciously accepted the award and complimented Edison, who did not attend the ceremony, as "this wonderful man, who had had no theoretical training at all, no advantages, who did all himself, getting great results by virtue of his industry and application."[15]

Tesla treasured the Edison Medal during his final years. Poverty stricken, he gave up virtually all of his personal possessions, but kept the medal in a safe at his subsidized Hotel New Yorker apartment. Tesla is reported to have proudly shown the medal to many visitors. After his death on January 7, 1943, Tesla's nephew opened the safe to discover that the medal was missing. It has never been recovered. [37][38][39]

The Edison Medal for 1947 was presented to Lee De Forest by none other than David Sarnoff, President of the powerful Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and a one-time litigant both with and against De Forest over patent rights. Sarnoff heaped glowing praise on De Forest's grid-controlled electron vacuum tube as "one of the twenty great inventions of all time".[40]

Nikola Tesla 1916 Edison Medal Award Certificate. Kesler, M.  (2006, June 22).  Nikola Tesla 150 Years of Genius.  Exhibition: Diplomas of Nikola Tesla At The Assembly Room in Zagreb‘s Subcommittee of Prosvjeta.  For Tesla’s Edison Medal certificate see For Exhibition see
Nikola Tesla 1916 Edison Medal Award Certificate. Kesler, M. (2006, June 22). Nikola Tesla 150 Years of Genius. Exhibition: Diplomas of Nikola Tesla At The Assembly Room in Zagreb‘s Subcommittee of Prosvjeta. For Tesla’s Edison Medal certificate see For Exhibition see


The Edison Medal Winners are well represented among the recipients of the John Fritz Medal, and many were also members in the most prestigious national engineering honor society in the U.S., Tau Beta Pi. Of the 1903 John fritz Medal winners from 1902-2008, 52 are also Tau Beta Pi members. Of the 13 people that won both the John Fritz Medal and the Edison Medal, six were Tau Beta Pi members. These include Michael Pupin (who won the Edison Medal in 1920), Frank Jewett (1928), Vannevar Bush (1943), Charles Kettering (1958), Walker Cisler (1965) and George Brown (1967). The remaining medalists include Elihu Thomson (1909), Frank Sprague (1910), George Westinghouse (1911), Alexander Graham Bell (1914), John Carty (1917), Willis Whitney (1934) and Philip Sporn (1945).[41]

The Edison Medal was awarded to a number of people for their critical roles in developing radio and television communication, including Michael Pupin (1920) for his work in mathematical physics and its application to the electric transmission of intelligence; Frank Conrad (1930) for radio broadcasting and short wave radio transmission; Arthur Kennelly (1933) for the theory of electrical transmission and international electrical standards; Edwin Armstrong (1942) for the regenerative, super-regenerative and super-heterodyne circuits and frequency modulation FM radio; Lee De Forest (1946) for the grid-controlled vacuum tube; and Vladimir Zworykin (1952) for the television.[34][35]

Armstrong and Millikan

Edwin H. Armstrong's Edison Medal, awarded in 1942
Edwin H. Armstrong's Edison Medal, awarded in 1942

Edwin Armstrong was particularly introspective upon his receipt of the 1942 Edison Medal after his many years spent in litigation with De Forest, RCA and others over radio patents and public acknowledgement of who invented various radio circuits. The AIEE awarded Armstrong an honorary lifetime membership (the first of which had been extended to Lord Kelvin in 1892) together with the Edison Medal. Armstrong's Edison Medal citation noted the importance of his work stating, "This keystone of radio development was later to become involved in fourteen years of litigation and which, in the end, was decided by lay courts based on errors of fact and judgment which were contrary to the scientific facts."[42]

Alan Hazeltine presented the award to Armstrong stating " development stands out from all the others... the application of the three-electrode vacuum tube... the original electronic tube was the two-electrode vacuum tube of Edison, in whose honor the Edison Medal was established. Others subsequently applied the "Edison Effect" in radio detection [but] the real foundation for the unlimited development was laid by the Edison Medal recipient, Dr. Edwin Howard Armstrong." [43]

Armstrong's acceptance speech began, "It is not possible for me to find the words to tell you what this honor means to me. To have belonged to the generation which learned the meaning of volts and amperes when Edison was at the height of his career, to be able to follow in the footsteps of my old instructor - Michael Pupin - who stood here twenty-two years ago, and to have my own work appraised, during these difficult days, as worth of the Edison Medal, gives it an inspiring meaning that can never be described." [44]

In 1922, Robert Millikan won the Edison Medal "for his experimental work in electrical science". He was the first recipient to be honored primarily for scientific contributions rather than engineering or invention. The selection committee is rumored to have been influenced by his leading role in the mobilization of science and engineering to carry out military research during World War 1. The award proved timely, since the following year he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, becoming the first and only Edison Medalist to win this prestigious recognition. [45][46]

Edison's 1928 Congressional Medal

Thomas Edison is revered as one of the great American inventors. He is recognized in the applied fields of industrial research, engineering and electronics for his many inventions and in science for his discovery of the "Edison Effect". Edison was long recognized as holding the largest number of U.S. parents awarded to any American, eventually obtaining 1,093 patents.[47] The U.S. Congress presented Edison with a gold medal in 1928, three years before his death, for "development and application of inventions that have revolutionized civilization in the last century."[48] Among those present to witness President Coolidge's presentation of the Congressional Medal were Dr. Elihu Thomson, the Edison Medal's first recipient, and the first chairman of the Edison Medal Association, Samuel Insull.[49]

The Legacy of the Edison Medal

Edison Medal Winners 1909 through 1922. Tesla Memorial Society of New York Internet Site.  Tesla Memorial Society of New York.  See (2009b, April 28).  Thomas A. Edison And The Edison Medalists.  Image undated.
Edison Medal Winners 1909 through 1922. Tesla Memorial Society of New York Internet Site. Tesla Memorial Society of New York. See (2009b, April 28). Thomas A. Edison And The Edison Medalists. Image undated.

In 1963, the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) and the AIEE] merged to form the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IRE's former Medal of Honor, its highest award first given to Edwin Armstrong in 1917, was selected to be the IEEE's "highest award". The Edison Medal was selected to become the IEEE's "principal medal".[50] Its purpose remains the same today as in 1909. As Arthur Kennelly stated over seventy years ago, the Edison Medal was intended to identify those "great and noteworthy" and those "great and notorious and worthy of merit", serving as a "Who's Who" in the field of electronics and electrical engineering.[15]

Today, the Edison Medal is the oldest award in the areas of electrical and electronics engineering. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. agreed to sponsor the IEEE Edison Medal in 2006 and is committed to the sponsorship through 2016.[51] The Edison Medal is considered the highest American award "for a career of meritorious achievement in electrical science, electrical engineering or the electrical arts."[52][35]

Nominations and the selection of award recipients are governed by the IEEE Medals Council of the IEEE Awards Board. The award is based on "leadership, individual contributions, originality, breadth, patents/publications, other achievements, honors, duration of dominance, quality of nomination."[35][53]

The original award included a gold medal, bronze replica, small gold replica, certificate and honorarium.[54] Today's prize includes a $10,000 honorarium, gold medal, gold pendant and certificate.[51]

The 2009 Edison Medal was awarded to Tingye Li, a retired division manager of the Communications Infrastructure Research Laboratory at the AT&T Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey.[35] His work in the field of broadband optical fiber communications seems far removed from Thomas Edison's incandescent light first commemorated by Edison's friends and associates 105 years ago. The tremendous progress achieved in electronics and electrical science of the past century, which is characterized by the recipients of the Edison Medal, has made it a living testament to the life and work of its namesake, Thomas Edison.

Original Sources

The primary research on the history and impact of the Edison Medal was conducted by David and Julia Baret in the early 20th century.

A PDF of the Barts' original article, originally appearing in The Antique Wireless Association Review, Volume 22, 2009

List of Edison Medal Winners

  • Elihu Thomson, 1909
  • Frank J. Sprague, 1910
  • George Westinghouse, 1911
  • William Stanley, 1912
  • Charles F. Brush, 1913
  • Alexander Graham Bell, 1914
  • Nikola Tesla, 1916
  • John J. Carty, 1917
  • Benjamin G. Lamme, 1918
  • W. L. R. Emmet, 1919
  • Michael I. Pupin, 1920
  • Cummings C. Chesney, 1921
  • Robert A. Millikan, 1922
  • John W. Lieb, 1923
  • John W. Howell, 1924
  • Harris J. Ryan, 1925
  • William D. Coolidge, 1927
  • Frank B. Jewett, 1928
  • Charles F. Scott, 1929
  • Frank Conrad, 1930
  • E. W. Rice, Jr., 1931
  • Bancroft Gherardi, 1932
  • Arthur E. Kennelly, 1933
  • Willis R. Whitney, 1934
  • Lewis B. Stillwell, 1935
  • Alex Dow, 1936
  • Gano Dunn, 1937
  • Dugald C. Jackson, 1938
  • Philip Torchio, 1939
  • George A. Campbell, 1940
  • John B. Whitehead, 1941
  • Edwin H. Armstrong, 1942
  • Vannevar Bush, 1943
  • E. R. W. Alexanderson, 1944
  • Philip Sporn, 1945
  • Lee de Forest, 1946
  • Joseph Slepian, 1947
  • Morris E. Leeds, 1948
  • Karl B. McEachron, 1949
  • Otto B. Blackwell, 1950
  • Charles F. Wagner, 1951
  • Vladimir K. Zworykin, 1952
  • John F. Peters, 1953
  • Oliver E. Buckley, 1954
  • Leonid A. Umansky, 1955
  • Comfort A. Adams, 1956
  • John K. Hodnette, 1957
  • Charles F. Kettering, 1958
  • James F. Fairman, 1959
  • Harold S. Osborne, 1960
  • William B. Kouwenhoven, 1961
  • Alexander C. Monteith, 1962
  • John R. Pierce, 1963
  • Schedule revised, 1964
  • Walker L. Cisler, 1965
  • Wilmer L. Barrow, 1966
  • George H. Brown, 1967
  • Charles F. Avila, 1968
  • Hendrik W. Bode, 1969
  • Howard H. Aiken, 1970
  • John W. Simpson, 1971
  • William H. Pickering, 1972
  • B. D. H. Tellegen, 1973
  • Jan A. Rajchman, 1974
  • Sidney Darlington, 1975
  • Murray Joslin, 1976
  • Henri Busignies, 1977
  • Daniel E. Noble, 1978
  • Albert Rose, 1979
  • Robert Adler, 1980
  • C. Chapin Cutler, 1981
  • Nathan Cohn, 1982
  • Herman P. Schwan, 1983
  • Eugene I. Gordon, 1984
  • John D. Kraus, 1985
  • James L. Flanagan, 1986
  • Robert A. Henle, 1987
  • James Ross Macdonald, 1988
  • Nick Holonyak, Jr., 1989
  • Archie W. Straiton, 1990
  • John Louis Moll, 1991
  • G. David Forney, Jr., 1992
  • James H. Pomerene, 1993
  • Leslie A. Geddes, 1994
  • Robert W. Lucky, 1995
  • Floyd Dunn, 1996
  • Esther M. Conwell, 1997
  • Rolf Landauer, 1998
  • Kees A. Schouhamer Immink, 1999
  • Jun-ichi Nishizawa, 2000
  • Robert H. Dennard, 2001
  • Ed Hammer, 2002
  • No Award, 2003
  • Federico Capasso, 2004
  • Peter Lawrenson, 2005
  • Fawwaz T. Ulaby, 2006
  • Russell D. Dupuis, 2007
  • Dov Frohman-Bentchkowsky, 2008
  • Tingye Li, 2009


  1. The "War of Currents", or "Battle of Currents", raged from the mid-1880s through the first years of the twentieth century. George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison became bitter adversaries due to Edison's ruthless promotion of direct current (D.C.) for electric power distribution over the alternating current (A.C.) systems advocated by Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla The battle was waged in newspapers, the courts and through various banking and business dealings. Contracts for major lighting and power installations such as the Columbian Exposition and propaganda over the first electric chair provided the public with numerous newspaper headlines.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRJonnes, J. (2003). Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. New York: Random House, Inc.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRMcNichol, T. (2006). AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. A number of these former employees and associates of Edison would later form the Edison Pioneers in 1918. This group was established to memorialize Edison through public works including preserving Edison artifacts and historic places, funding scholarship medals and building memorials. The group met annually on Edison's birthday. The original Edison Pioneers included 28 members and 230 former associates of Edison. The following are noted in particular:<br><br>(1) Edison's 'four principal assistants': Charles Batchelor (Chairman of the Edison Medal Assn.), Edward Johnson, John Kruesi and Francis Upton (Edison Medal Assn.);<br><br>(2) Edison's 'co-workers': Charles Edgar (Edison Medal Assn.), William Hammer (Edison Medal Assn.), Samuel Insull (Executive Committee of Edison Medal Assn.), Frances Jehl (Edison's assistant at Menlo Park and his biographer), Robert Lozier (Edison Medal Assn.), T. Commerford Martin (Edison Medal Assn. and editor of Electrical World), John Ott (Edison Medal Assn.);<br><br>(3) Edison's 'associates': Richard Bowker (Edison Medal Association), Henry Ford (founder of the Edison Institute later known as the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village); Arthur Kennelly (awarded Edison Medal in 1933), Frank Sprague (awarded Edison Medal in 1910), Nikola Tesla (awarded Edison Medal in 1916) and Theodore Vandeventer. <br>fckLR<br>fckLRNew York Times Article Archives. New York Times Internet Site. See (1918, Feb. 12).<br>fckLR<br>fckLRHammer, W.J. (1920, March 31). Letter from W.J. Hammer to F. Jehl. Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History Archives Center, William J. Hammer Collection. Rutgers University Thomas A. Edison Papers Digital Edition Internet Site. Document X098A, X098A082; TAEM 0:0. See<br>fckLR<br>fckLRMiller, F.T. (1931). Thomas A. Edison, Benefactor of Mankind. Chicago: John C. Winston Company.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRKennelly, A.E. (1932). Biographical Memoir of Thomas Alva Edison 1847-1931. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs. Vol. XV, 10th Memoir. Presented at National Academy of Sciences Autumn Meetings, 1932. <br>fckLR<br>fckLREdison Pioneers. (2009, April 28). Wikipedia Internet Site. See
  3. Documents. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. Minutes of Executive Committee Dec. 23 and 30, 1903
  4. 4.0 4.1 Documents. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. (1904a, Jan. 1). Edison Medal Association Subscription and Form.
  5. Documents. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. Minutes of Executive Committee Jan. 20, 1904
  6. Documents. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. (1904b, Jan. 20). Letter from R. Lozier to E.H. Lewis.
  7. Science. American Association For The Advancement of Science. (1904a, Jan. 15). Electrical World. Vol. XIX.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Science. American Association For The Advancement of Science. (1904c, May 27). The Edison Medal. Vol. XIX.
  9. Science. American Association For The Advancement of Science. (1904b, Feb. 26). Scientific notes and news. Vol. XIX.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 New York Times Article Archives. New York Times Internet Site. See (1904, Feb. 12). Edison Uses Sender For Banquet Speech.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Jones, F.A. (1908). Thomas Alva Edison, Sixty Years of an Inventor’s Life. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Publishers.
  12. Gherardi, B. (1907, March 16). Letter from B. Gherardi to F.J. Sprague. New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Frank Sprague Papers. Rutgers University Thomas A. Edison Papers Digital Edition Internet Site. Document X120C, X120CCR, TAEM 0:0. See
  13. For a complete history of John Fritz and the Fritz Medal including its winners, see:<br>fckLR<br>fckLRScience. American Association For The Advancement of Science. fckLR(1902, Nov.). The John Fritz Medal. Vol. XVI.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRJohn Fritz Medal. (2009a, April 28). American Association of Engineering Studies Internet Site. See<br>fckLR<br>fckLRJohn Fritz Medal. (2009b, April 28). Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society Internet Site. See<br>fckLR<br>fckLRThe John Fritz Medal. (1910, Aug.). Announcements: public meeting for the presentation of the medal for 1910. Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers. American Society of Civil Engineers. Vol. XXXVI, No. 8.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRTrainer, M. (2008, June). In Memoriam: Lord Kelvin, recipient of the John Fritz Medal in 1905. Physics in Perspective. Birkhäuser Basel. Vol. 10, No. 2.
  14. The John Fritz Medal. (1910, Aug.). Announcements: public meeting for the presentation of the medal for 1910. Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers. American Society of Civil Engineers. Vol. XXXVI, No. 8.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Presentation of the Edison Medal to Nikola Tesla. (1917, May 18). Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the AIEE, Held at The Engineering Societies Building, New York City. American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
  16. The Amended Deed was executed in triplicate by the full Executive Committee including William S. Andrews, Charles Batchelor, Richard R. Bowker, Andrew Carnegie, Charles A. Coffin, Richard N. Dyer, Sherburne B. Eaton, Charles L. Edgar, William E. Gillmore, William J. Hammer, Frank S. Hastings, Charles T. Hughes, Samuel Insull, Arthur E. Kennelly, H. Ward Leonard, John W. Lieb Jr., Robert T. Lozier, W.S. Mallory, T. Commerford Martin, J. Pierpont Morgan, John Ott, Frank J. Sprague, Francis R. Upton, and Schuyler S. Wheeler. Alex S. Webb signed as Vice President of the New York Trust Company and Henry G. Stott signed as President of the AIEE. Eugene H. Lewis, who had executed the original 1904 deed, had since died. John Ott's signature was omitted from Samuel Insull's copy of the Amended Deed, which was delivered to the Edison Medal Association's lawyers as the final copy.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRDocuments. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. (1908a, March 26). Amended and Substitute Deed of Gift Creating Edison Medal.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRDocuments. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. (1908b, May 13). Letter from S. Insull to Messrs. Eaton, Lewis and Rowe.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Documents. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. (1908a, March 26). Amended and Substitute Deed of Gift Creating Edison Medal.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Edison Medal Committee. (1909, May 18). Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. American Institute of Electrical Engineers. June 30-Dec. 31, 1909. Vol. XXVIII Part II.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Edison Medal Committee. (1910, May 17). Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. American Institute of Electrical Engineers. May 17-Dec. 31, 1910. Vol. XXIX Part II.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Documents. Edison Medal Association. Collection of David & Julia Bart. (1904c, Feb. 20). Programme and Rules For A Competition For The Selection of a Design For And Edison Medal Commemorating The Invention of the Incandescent Lamp.
  21. Daniel French designed several renowned public monuments including Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Minuteman Statue in Concord, Massachusetts and Republic, the centerpiece of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRFrench. (2009, May 5). Daniel Chester French. Wikipedia Internet Site. See
  22. Augustus Saint Gaudens was a sculptor and artist who designed many public monuments including William Tecumseh Sherman in New York City's Central Park, Diana and Hiawatha at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on Boston Common and The Puritan in Salem, Massachusetts. He also designed the Double Eagle $20 U.S. gold coin as well as the $10 Indian Head gold eagle.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRGaudens. (2009, May 5). Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Wikipedia Internet Site. See
  23. Artist and sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward is best known for his statue of George Washington on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRAdams (2009, May 5). John Quincy Adams Ward. Wikipedia Internet Site. See
  24. James Earle Fraser was the leading American sculptor of public monuments of his generation. Today, no other artist has more public sculptures on display in the U.S. He is best known for the U.s. Buffalo Nickel as well as Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Benjamin Franklin at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the entry sculptures and pediment reliefs at the U.S. National Archives building in Washington, D.C., Alexander Hamilton at the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C., and the End of the Trail sculpture now at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Fraser also executed the Thomas Edison bust and seated Edison statue at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRSemple, E.A. (1910, April). James Earle Fraser, Sculptor. The Century Magazine. New York: The Century Company.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRFreundlich, A.L. (2001). The Sculpture of James Earle Fraser. Boca Raton, Florida: Universal Publishers.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Freundlich, A.L. (2001). The Sculpture of James Earle Fraser. Boca Raton, Florida: Universal Publishers.
  26. The original design for the reverse (back) of the Edison Medal depicted a nude male sitting on steps holding a glowing Edison light bulb. Fraser actually cast Edison's own arm holding the light bulb for this version of the medal.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRFreundlich, A.L. (2001). The Sculpture of James Earle Fraser. Boca Raton, Florida: Universal Publishers.
  27. New York Times Article Archives. New York Times Internet Site. See (1909, Aug. 1). To Award Edison Medal.
  28. 28.0 28.1 The Edison Medal award dates in this article are based on the dates each recipient was selected, as reported by the IEEE, and not the dates the awards were presented, as reported by some of the reference materials. Since recipients were selected at the close of each calendar year and the medal presentation was made the following year, there is some inconsistency referring to the year of each award.
  29. Brittain, J.S. (2004, Jan.). Hall of fame for electrical engineers-Elihu Thomson. Proceedings of the IEEE. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. Vol. 92, No. 1.
  30. Dr. Elihu Thomson is not related to Sir William Thomson, known as Lord Kelvin. In addition to the Edison Medal, Thomson was the first American recipient of the Kelvin Gold Medal issued by the Institute of Civil Engineers in Great Britain in 1923. The Kelvin Medal is awarded for "distinguished service in the application of science to engineering."<br>fckLR<br>fckLRPresentation of John Fritz Medal to Professor Elihu Thomson. (1917, Feb.). Bulletin of the American Institute of Mining Engineers. American Institute of Mining Engineers. No. 122.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRBrittain, J.S. (2004, Jan.). Hall of fame for electrical engineers-Elihu Thomson. Proceedings of the IEEE. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. Vol. 92, No. 1.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRIEEE Explore. (2008, Sept. 16). Elihu Thomson. IEEE Digital Library. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See<br>fckLR<br>fckLRICE. (2009, May 5). The Kelvin Medal. Institution of Civil Engineers Terms of Reference For Institution and Inter-Institution Medals. Institution of Civil Engineers Internet Site. See
  31. New York Times Article Archives. New York Times Internet Site. See (1927, Feb. 26). Scientist Refuses To Accept Award.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Jonnes, J. (2003). Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. New York: Random House, Inc.
  33. 33.0 33.1 McNichol, T. (2006). AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Edison Medal. (2009, April 28). Encyclopedia II - Edison Medal – History. See
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 IEEE Internet Site. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See (2009c, April 27). Edison Medal Recipients.
  36. See New York Times (1915) for the original article and Cheney (1981 and 2001) for the complete story which involved many unsupported newspaper articles and interviews about the Nobel Prize award. On November 14, 1915, the Nobel Prize Committee announced the 1915 prize for physics would be awarded to Professor William Henry Bragg of the University of Leeds in England and his son W.L. Bragg of Cambridge University for their use of X-rays to determine the structure of crystals.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Cheney, M. (1981). Tesla, Man Out of Time. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
  38. Cheney, M., Uth, R. (2001). TESLA: Master of Lighting. New York: Metro Books.
  39. Tesla Memorial Society of New York Internet Site. Tesla Memorial Society of New York. See (2009a, April 28). Vujovic, Dr. L. Missing Tesla Related Items.
  40. New York Times Article Archives. New York Times Internet Site. See (1947, Jan. 29). De Forest Honored As Radio Pioneer.
  41. See:<br>fckLR<br>fckLRIEEE Internet Site. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See (2009c, April 27). Edison Medal Recipients.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRJohn Fritz Medal. (2009a, April 28). American Association of Engineering Studies Internet Site. See<br>fckLR<br>fckLRJohn Fritz Medal. (2009b, April 28). Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society Internet Site. See<br>fckLR<br>fckLRIEEE Century of Honors. (1984). A Century of Honors 1884-1984: The First 100 Years of Award Winners, Honorary Members, Past Presidents and Fellows of The Institute. New York: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRIEEE Edison Medal. (2009, April 27). Wikipedia Internet Site. See
  42. Lessing, L. (1956). Man of High Fidelity: Edwin Howard Armstrong. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company.
  43. Hazeltine, A. (1943, April). Presentation of the AIEE Edison Medal. Electrical Engineering. Vol. 62. Reprinted in The Legacies of Edwin Howard Armstrong, (1991), The Radio Club of America.
  44. Armstrong, E.H. (1943, April). Vagaries and elusiveness of invention. Proceedings, American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Electrical Engineering. Vol. 62. Reprinted in The Legacies of Edwin Howard Armstrong, (1991), The Radio Club of America.
  45. Brittain, J.S. (2006, June). Electrical Engineering Hall of Fame: Robert Millikan. Proceedings of the IEEE. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. Vol. 94, No. 6.
  46. IEEE Global History Network. IEEE Global History Network Internet Site. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See (2009, Jan. 28). Robert A. Millikan.fckLRIEEE Internet Site. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See
  47. A 2005 study concluded that the largest number of U.S. parents (1,432) belong to Shunpei Yamazaki working at the Semiconductor Energy Laboratory in Tokyo, Japan. The second highest number of patents (1,322) belongs to Donald Weber, primarily involving flower pot and flower bundling technology. Thomas Edison now ranks third with 1,093 patents.<br>fckLR<br>fckLRManey, K. (2005, Dec. 13). You really can find identities of top patent holders. USA TODAY. Gannett Co. Inc.
  48. Act Commemorating the LITE, or Lifetime Innovations of Thomas Edison. (Introduced in U.S. Senate) S 2329 IS 110th Congress 1st Session S. 2329. To establish the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in the State of New Jersey as the successor to the Edison National Historic Site. In The Senate Of The United States dated November 8, 2007.
  49. New York Times Article Archives. New York Times Internet Site. See (1928, Oct. 19). Program Completed For Edison Ceremony.
  50. The American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) was founded in 1884. The focus of the AIEE would largely become dominated by topics of electric power generation and wire communications. The Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) was formed in 1912, modeled on the AIEE, but was devoted to radio, wireless telegraphy and electronics. In the 1940s the interests of the two societies began to significantly overlap and many engineers were members of both societies. A merger occurred in 1963, and the resulting organization was renamed the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
  51. 51.0 51.1 IEEE Foundation. (2005). Samsung to Sponsor IEEE Edison Medal. IEEE Foundation Internet Site. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See
  52. IEEE Internet Site. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See (2009b, April 27). Edison Medal.
  53. IEEE Internet Site. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. See (2009d, April 27). Edison Medal Nomination.
  54. IEEE Edison Medal. (2009, April 27). Wikipedia Internet Site. See
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