About the Scientific & Technical Awards
In recognition of the critical role played by science and technology in the moviemaking process, the Academy has, almost since its inception, honored the achievements of pioneers in these fields whose work has advanced the motion picture industry.
First presented at the 4th Academy Awards ceremony in November 1931, Scientific & Technical Awards are conferred in recognition of original developments that result in significant improvements in motion picture production and exhibition.
Scientific and technical achievement is awarded on three levels: Technical Achievement Award (certificate), Scientific and Engineering Award (bronze tablet) and Academy Award of Merit (Oscar statuette).
Recent recipients of Scientific and Technical Oscars have included IMAX, for its method of filming and exhibiting large-format, wide-angle motion pictures; Avid Technology, for its non-linear editing system; and Horst Burbulla, for his invention and development of the Technocrane telescoping camera crane. Search the Academy Awards Database to find all Scientific and Technical Award winners.
Presentations of each year’s honors are made at a formal dinner held prior to the Oscar ceremony, which has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season. If one or more Scientific and Technical Academy Awards of Merit are awarded in a given year, the event is videotaped and portions are edited into the Oscar telecast.
The 1977 (50th) Awards marked the first time that the Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony became a full-fledged Awards dinner presentation. That first dinner ceremony, five days prior to the main Academy Awards ceremony, was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton on March 29, 1978. Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck hosted. Over the next decade, hosts included Christopher Reeve, Lloyd Bridges, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Janet Leigh, Macdonald Carey and other notables.
Starting with the 1978 (51st) Awards, the “Class I” Scientific and Technical Award became the Academy Award of Merit, “Class II” became the Scientific and Engineering Award and “Class III” became the Technical Achievement Award.
The practice of holding a separate Sci-Tech Awards dinner has continued ever since the 1977 Awards. Locations for the dinner ceremony have included the Beverly Hilton, Century Plaza Hotel, Regent Beverly Wilshire, Ritz-Carlton Huntington (Pasadena) and the Beverly Wilshire. Richard Dreyfuss, Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Garner and Scarlett Johansson are among the hosts in recent years.
The Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony now generally takes place two weeks prior to the main Academy Awards ceremony.
John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation
Named after sound engineer and Academy Governor John A. Bonner, the Medal of Commendation is awarded “in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy.” Recent winners include technologist David Inglish and visual effects expert Richard Edlund.
Gordon E. Sawyer Award
The award is named after the former Samuel Goldwyn Studios sound department head and longtime Scientific and Technical Awards Committee member Gordon E. Sawyer. Established in 1981, this prestigious honorary award recognizes an individual whose technological contributions have brought credit to the motion picture industry. Recent winners include trailblazing visual effects software developer Ray Feeney, and David A. Grafton, a groundbreaking designer of lenses for optical effects printers. A complete list of winners is available here.