Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Director Emeritus Ira Rubinoff to Receive the Smithsonian’s Highest Honor

July 13, 2011
News Release

The Smithsonian Regents will present Ira Rubinoff, Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, with the Institution’s highest honor. The Joseph Henry Medal will be presented to Rubinoff July 14 in the Smithsonian building (the “Castle”).

Renowned for his scientific leadership, Rubinoff directly supervised the construction or modernization of every STRI facility during his tenure there, while building the staff from a handful to an international group of 35 scientists and 300 staff who also support approximately 1,000 visiting scientists and students each year. An endowment fund created by Rubinoff includes more than $17 million to support research and fellowships at STRI, augmenting the $20 million annual budget in federal and non-federal funds.

As the first marine scientist at STRI, Rubinoff took advantage of the unique natural experiment that Panama provides through its geographic position as a narrow isthmus separating oceans. In 1974 he became the director of STRI, and, over the course of 34 years, built one of the finest tropical research institutes in the world.

The Henry Medal is given by the Board of Regents to individuals in recognition of their distinguished service, achievements or contributions to the prestige and growth of the Smithsonian Institution. The likeness on the medal was probably based on the Clark Mills bust of Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian. The medal was created by William Barber, the engraver of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, and his son Charles E. Barber, in honor of Henry, whose statue has a place of honor in front of the Castle.

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