Acting for the city of Philadelphia, the board of directors of city trusts has awarded John Homans Professor of Surgery Joseph P. Vacanti the 2007 John Scott Medal. The award is given to men and women whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the “comfort, welfare, and happiness” of mankind.
Scott was an Edinburgh druggist who in the early 1800s set up a fund calling upon the “Corporation of Philadelphia entrusted with the management of Dr. Franklin’s legacy” to bestow upon “ingenious men or women who make useful inventions” a premium not to exceed $20 and a suitably inscribed copper medal. Why Scott chose an American city to administer his bequest is not known, although it is believed he had a long-standing interest in America and appreciated the achievements of Benjamin Franklin.
The first awards were made in 1834 for the inventions of the knitting machine and a door lock. Through the years, awards have been made internationally for inventions in industry, agriculture, manufacturing, science, and medicine. Awards have recognized significant contributions in the prevention of yellow fever and malaria, and in the development of penicillin and streptomycin. Past recipients include Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Edwin Land, and Guglielmo Marconi. A committee of Philadelphians makes nominations of individuals for the award to the board of directors of city trusts. Reflecting the increased value of the John Scott Trust account, the award includes a substantial cash payment, in addition to the copper medal and a certificate.
Vacanti is a pioneer in tissue engineering, an interdisciplinary field that applies the principles of engineering and life sciences toward the development of biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve tissue or organ function. A surgeon-scientist in the field of transplantation, Vacanti was recommended for his instrumental role in the design of implantable, biodegradable systems that can act as devices to generate permanent new tissue. He is director of the Laboratory of Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication at Massachusetts General Hospital and has more than 50 patents in North America, Europe, and Japan. Vacanti will share the award with Albert J. Stunkard, a professor of psychiatry at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who is being recognized for his pioneering contributions in the understanding and treatment of eating disorders.
The award will be presented at a ceremony and reception at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia on Nov. 16.