Objective & Awards
URSI acknowledges scientific research in the field of Radio Science through awarding individuals with a number of URSI Awards. There are "senior" awards such as the Balthasar van der Pol Gold Medal, the John Howard Dellinger Gold Medal, the Appleton Prize, the Booker Gold Medal and the Karl Rawer Gold Medal, and there are "early career" awards like the Koga Gold Medal and the Santimay Basu Prize.
The URSI awardees are selected through a system of nominations and evaluations and the awards are presented at the Opening Ceremony of the URSI General Assembly. Below is a short description of the background and origin of the different URSI Awards. Other pages on this website describe the rules for awarding individuals as well as the list of previous awardees.
Balthasar Van der Pol, one of the pioneers of radio science, served URSI with devotion and distinction for more than 30 years. It was he who created in 1928 the Commission on Radio Physics, which was particularly concerned with questions of propagation and circuits.
Balthasar Van der Pol was at the same time a scholar, a great technician and a great administrator. Having obtained his doctor’s degree at the University of Utrecht in 1920, he became the theoretical assistant of the famous H.A. Lorentz. In 1922, he entered the Research Laboratories of Philips at Eindhoven, where he remained until 1949; this was his most creative period as a scientist. From 1949 to 1956, he was Director of the International Consultative Committee on Radiocommunications (CCIR) in Geneva.
Balthasar Van der Pol discovered and explained the well-known oscillations of relaxation, and proved the possibility of frequency division. This fundamental contribution has had important consequences in physiology and biology. A second more theoretical and mathematical aspect of his work was the theory of the propagation of electromagnetic waves round the Earth, a problem of great practical importance in the early days of wireless telecommunications. In 1937, with Hendrik Bremmer, he treated it as a diffraction problem of waves produced by a dipole near the surface of a sphere, dielectric and conducting, but he did not introduce the ionosphere into the problem.
In all his work, Balthasar Van der Pol made brilliant use of the method of operational calculus. A third aspect of his scientific activity is his pure mathematical work. He introduced the modern form of the calculus based on the double Laplace integral. This work culminated in 1950 in a treatise with Bremmer as co-author. Balthasar Van der Pol wrote many major papers as, for example, on the classical theory of numbers.
Balthasar Van der Pol was Vice-President of URSI from 1934 to 1950, and Honorary President from 1952 until his death in 1959. Wishing to leave a tangible testimony of her husband’s devotion, Mrs. Van der Pol, with the unanimous agreement and gratefulness of the Board of Officers, gave URSI the possibility to award at each General Assembly the Van der Pol Gold Medal to a scientist whose researches have increased one of the fields of URSI activity. By a most welcome coincidence, the Medal was awarded for the first time during the General Assembly celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the International Scientific Radio Union in 1963. The meeting was held at the Takanawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo on 11 September 1963.