History of the Scientific & Technical Awards
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has honored scientific and technical achievements since the very early years of the organization.
The Academy established the category of Scientific or Technical Achievement for the 1930–31 (4th) Academy Awards. The three classes of awards were:
- Class I: For basic achievements which influence the advancement of the industry as a whole.
- Class II: For high level of engineering or technical merit.
- Class III: For accomplishments which are valuable contributions to the progress of the industry.
The first Scientific and Technical Awards were presented at the 1930–31 Academy Awards ceremony, held on November 10, 1931 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
- Class I (statuette)
Electrical Research Products, Inc., RCA-Photophone, Inc., and RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., for noise reduction recording.
DuPONT Film Manufacturing CORP, and Eastman Kodak Co. for super-sensitive panchromatic film.
- Class II (certificate)
FOX FILM CORP. for effective use of synchro-projection composite photography.
- Class III (honorable mention)
ELECTRICAL RESEARCH PRODUCTS, INC., for moving coil microphone transmitters.
RKO RADIO PICTURES, INC., for reflex type microphone concentrators.
RCA-PHOTOPHONE, INC., for ribbon microphone transmitters.
The Ceremony Over the Years
The Awards were presented as part of the main Academy Award ceremony until the 1959 (32nd) Awards, when the Scientific and Technical Awards and Honorary Awards were presented at the Governor’s Ball following the main ceremony.
The next year the Scientific and Technical (Sci-Tech) Awards returned to the main Academy Awards ceremony, a practice that continued until the 1974 (47th) Awards. That year marked the first separate Sci-Tech Awards ceremony – a 4 p.m. press call at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, hosted by Gregory Peck and Walter Mirisch (Academy President at the time). The next year’s awards were given in similar fashion; this time the event was held at the Academy’s new headquarters at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, hosted by Mirisch and William Friedkin. The 1976 (49th) Awards were given at a cocktail reception in the Grand Lobby of the Wilshire building, with Kirk Douglas joining Mirisch as co-host.
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
The Medal of Commendation “in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy” was first awarded in 1977; the Board of Governors named it the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation in 1997 to honor a sound engineer who had been an Academy governor and chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee for many years.
Gordon E. Sawyer Award
The Gordon E. Sawyer Award, an honorary award given to “an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry” was first given in 1981. Sawyer was a member of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee from 1937 to 1977.