President Barack Obama on Thursday conferred the prestigious 'Presidential Medal of Freedom', America's highest civilian award, on British scientist Stephen Hawking along with 15 others including Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and South Africa's anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu.
In addition to scientific research, Hawking has written three popular science books, including the bestseller 'A Brief History of Time'. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in recognition of these popular science publications and for making his research accessible to all members of the public.
Yunus, who won the Nobel peace prize in 2006 for his role in poverty alleviation through micro-finance scheme in Bangladesh, has been honoured for altering the face of finance and entrepreneurship.
Tutu, a former Archbishop and leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, was chosen for giving voice to the voiceless and bringing hope to those who thirst for freedom.
"This is a chance for me -- and for the United States of America -- to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country, and of all countries," Obama said while presenting them the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.