Othmer Gold Medal

Richard Zare accepts the 2017 Othmer Gold Medal

Founded in 1997, the Othmer Gold Medal is the Science History Institute’s preeminent award. Winners of the Othmer Gold Medal must, like the medal’s namesake, Donald Othmer, have made extraordinary contributions in not just one aspect of the materials sciences but in many. The roster of past winners contains some of the most versatile, multitalented individuals in the scientific community.

Donald Othmer (1904–1995) was a noted researcher, consultant, editor, engineer, inventor, philanthropist, professor, and coeditor of the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology.

The Othmer Gold Medal is presented at Heritage Day, the Science History Institute’s annual celebration of the achievements and promise of the sciences and technologies that shape material culture. It is cosponsored by four affiliated organizations: the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, The Chemists’ Club, and the Société de Chimie Industrielle (American Section).


2018 Medalist: Joshua Boger

Joshua Boger, founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, received the 2018 Othmer Gold Medal at Heritage Day on May 9, 2018.

In 1989 Joshua Boger founded Vertex Pharmaceuticals—now a global biotechnology company—with the aim of developing innovative medicines for people with serious, life-threatening diseases. The company has a clinical development program focused on treatment for cystic fibrosis along with more than a dozen other research programs targeted to serious illnesses. Boger retired as Vertex’s chief executive officer in May 2009, after 20 years with the company. He continued to serve on the Vertex board and chaired its Science and Technology Committee until 2017.

Before founding Vertex, Boger was the senior director of basic chemistry at Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories in Rahway, New Jersey. During his 10 years at Merck he developed an international reputation in the application of computer modeling to the chemistry of drug design and was a pioneer in the use of structure-based rational drug design as the basis for drug discovery programs.

Boger was a founding director of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and founding chair of the board of MassChallenge, the world’s largest start-up business incubator. He is the author of over 50 scientific publications, holds 32 issued U.S. patents in pharmaceutical discovery and development, and has delivered over 100 lectures on various aspects of drug discovery and development. He was named one of 40 “Technology Pioneers” worldwide for the 2003 World Economic Forum and was elected to the Biotech Hall of Fame in 2009. Among many other honors, he received the Biotechnology Heritage Award in 2012 and was given an All-Stars Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 from the Boston Business Journal. He serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Board of Fellows of Harvard Medical School (where he is chair emeritus) and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (where he served several years as chair).

Boger holds a BA in chemistry and philosophy from Wesleyan University and master’s and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Harvard University.

Previous Winners of the Othmer Gold Medal

About the Sponsors

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world’s largest scientific organization. The society was established in 1876 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1937 to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner the advancement of chemistry in all its branches.

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is a professional, technical, and educational association. The AIChE was founded in 1908 and is dedicated to promoting excellence in the development and practice of chemical engineering in an ever-expanding array of disciplines.

The Chemists’ Club, established in 1898, is one of the oldest and most respected chemical organizations in the country. Members are engaged in management, marketing, processing, and research and development.

The Société de Chimie Industrielle was founded in 1918 as the American Section of a Paris-based international organization. Today it operates as an independent New York–based society with a mission to work with other chemical-industry organizations and promote understanding of the chemical and allied industries. Activities include a monthly CEO forum, a scholarship program, and the International Palladium Medal awarded to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the industry.