Charles Bolden Jr. —a former Marine Corps major general, astronaut, and NASA administrator—has been recognized for his contributions to science, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Bolden, 71, is the recipient of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s 2017 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest. The award honors those who make major contributions to research and discovery that connects the public to science.
He joins a list of scientists that includes the human genome pioneer Craig Venter and primatologist Jane Goodall, who famously discovered that chimps make tools when it was previously thought that only humans did.
The award honors physicist William Nierenberg who died in 2000. Victoria Tschinkel, Nierenberg’s daughter, presented Bolden with the award.
“As NASA administrator, Gen. Bolden saw his role to be the head of space for the earth, an ambassador for science, technology and appreciation for the natural world,” she said, according to The Washington Post. “He is a visionary, inspiring all of us to think about the wonders that are out there, that we can feel, measure and maybe even touch.”
Bolden’s journey was no easy feat, as he was confronted with racism along the way. Coming of age during the peak of the Jim Crow era in Columbia, South Carolina, his school didn’t offer advanced math or science classes. While at the U.S. Naval Academy, he was one of seven Black students in a 1,400-student class and often dealt with antagonism, the news out stated. He participated in over 100 combat missions in Vietnam.
After serving, he became an astronaut and went on four space shuttle flights, pivotal missions that sparked research surrounding the earth and other planets. In 2009, Bolden became the first African American to serve as a NASA director, the Washington Post reported.
“I believe space exploration is one of the most important tools this generation will use to bring about the better future that you deserve – a more peaceful future; a greener future,” he said during his acceptance speech, according to the Washington Post.
SOURCE: San Diego Union-Tribune