Science for the Nation in Time of Need

  • Prosperity
  • 1957

John Hertz was an immigrant to Chicago, from Slovakia, who made a good deal of money by creating transportation firms, including the car rental company bearing his name. During the Cold War he worried over the security of his adopted country and so established a foundation whose main work has been to support scientific exploration by young minds, especially in applied areas that can strengthen the U.S. economically and militarily.

From 1963 to 2015, the Hertz Foundation gave away $200 million to provide graduate education to 1,169 competitively selected fellows. In addition to $250,000 of stipend and tuition payments, the fellows gain extraordinary freedom to pursue their research ideas without funding limits or restrictions on subject matter. In return, John Hertz asked them to sign a pledge that they would “give back to the country in time of great need.”

Hertz fellows have so far included two Nobel winners, a Fields Medal recipient, a National Medal of Science awardee, more than 200 company founders, the registrants of over 3,000 patents, heads of universities, and senior military leaders.