Drake Award

Drake Award header

About Drake Award

The SETI Institute’s Drake Award celebrates exemplary contributions to SETI or astrobiology through scientific research and space exploration. The award honors Frank Drake, whose Drake Equation first identified the specific factors necessary for the emergence of life in the Universe and the evolution of technological civilizations. This honor is given at the discretion of the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute, based on nominations from its Science Advisory Board. The honoree is presented a cash award and trophy, and is invited to describe their research at a public ceremony. The Award was initially presented to Frank Drake in 2001.

Past Recipients

Frank Drake 2001

Frank Drake

for innovation in SETI and life in the universe research
Charles Townes 2002

Charles Townes

for his visionary advocacy of optical SETI
Bill Borucki 2016

William Borucki

for his revolutionary contributions to exoplanet research as PI for the Kepler space telescope
Victoria Meadows 2018

Victoria Meadows

for her seminal contributions to astrobiology and exoplanet research
Jason Wright 2019

Jason Wright

for his groundbreaking achievements in exoplanet and SETI research
Dan Werthimer 2021

Dan Werthimer

for developing novel radio spectrometers as well as optical SETI detection systems
Paul Horowitz 2021

Paul Horowitz

for pioneering work in SETI instrumentation for both radio and optical searches
Shelley Wright 2022

Shelley Wright

for her innovative development and use of new instruments for optical SETI
John Rummel 2023

John Rummel

for lifetime contributions to SETI, astrobiology, and planetary protection

Andrew Siemion 2024

Andrew Siemion

for his exceptional and pioneering contributions to SETI and radio astronomy and his leadership in the field

About Frank Drake

Frank Drake was the former Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, and previously served as Chairman of SETI Institute's Board of Trustees.

Drake started his career undertaking radio astronomical research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, and later the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He conducted key measurements which revealed the presence of a Jovian ionosphere and magnetosphere.

In the 1960s, Drake spearheaded the conversion of the Arecibo Observatory to a radio astronomical facility, later updated in 1974 and 1996. As a researcher, Drake was involved in the early work on pulsars. In this period, Drake was a professor at Cornell University and Director of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) – the formal name for the Arecibo facility. In 1974 he wrote the Arecibo message.

He was one of the pioneers of the modern field of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with Giuseppe Cocconi, Philip Morrison, Iosif Shklovsky, and Carl Sagan.

Drake co-designed the Pioneer plaque with Carl Sagan in 1972, the first physical message sent into space. The plaque was designed to be understandable by extraterrestrials should they encounter it. He later supervised the creation of the Voyager Golden Record. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974.

Drake was a member of the National Academy of Sciences where he chaired the Board of Physics and Astronomy of the National Research Council (1989–92). He also served as President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He was a Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University (1964–84) and served as the Director of the Arecibo Observatory.

He was Emeritus Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California at Santa Cruz where he also served as Dean of Natural Sciences (1984–88).