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The National Academy of Engineering Wednesday announced the establishment of a major new international award for achievement in engineering and technology that it hopes will become as well known and respected as the Nobel Prizes.

"This award is designed to focus worldwide attention on the critical role that engineering and technology play in improving the quality of everyday life," Robert M. White, the academy's president, said in announcing the award named after engineering pioneer Charles Stark Draper.Draper developed the theory and invented the technology of inertial guidance systems now universally used in aircraft, submarines, missiles and space vehicles.

White noted that "our society tends to reward the discoverer of basic scientific principles but overlook the engineer who puts that principle into practice in products and services that yield societal and economic benefits."

"We hope that in years to come, the Charles Stark Draper Prize will be just as well-known and respected an award in engineering as the Nobel Prizes are today for chemistry, physics and medicine," he said.

According to White, the recipient of the first Draper Prize - consisting of a gold medal and $350,000 in prize money - will be announced in October 1989. The award subsequently will be given every two years.

Endowed by the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory of Cambridge, Mass., the prize recognizes engineering and technology achievements "contributing to the advancement of human welfare and freedom."

Announcement of the award came as the National Academy of Engineering, a sister organization of the National Academy of Sciences, held its 24th annual meeting.