Eight people in scientific and architectural fields from the US, Germany, Austria and Portugal will receive this year’s Wolf Foundation Prize, which is considered “Israel’s Nobel Prize.”

The names were announced at a Tel Aviv ceremony on Wednesday night. The eight will share a total of $500,000, which will be handed out by President Shimon Peres at the Knesset in May.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who is also chairman of the Wolf Foundation, said: “The announcement of the recipients of the 2013 Wolf Prize is a cause for celebration in the science and art community in the world and in Israel.

This year’s prize recipients join a distinguished group of leading scientists and artists who have received this prestigious award. The activities of the Wolf Foundation and its international standings reflect Israel’s status as a leader in advanced science and research.”

“In this term, we are investing in promoting research excellence, based on our determination to maintain and strengthen our status at the forefront of global research, which is crucial for Israel’s future,” Sa’ar added.

The Wolf Prize is awarded annually by the Wolf Foundation in five areas, with four prizes in the sciences and one prize in the arts, in fixed rotation.

The prize is awarded to preeminent scientists and artists “for the unique contribution to mankind and friendly relations among peoples.”

So far, 282 recipients from 23 countries have been awarded the Wolf Prize. A total of 33 have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in the sciences; these include Prof. Avraham Hershko, Prof. Ada Yonath and Prof. Dan Shechtman of Israel.

Wolf Prize recipients in the arts include maestros Placido Domingo and Zubin Mehta, as well as conductors Isaac Stern, Daniel Barenboim and Riccardo Muti.

Prof. Robert S. Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will receive the Wolf Prize in chemistry “for conceiving and implementing advances in polymer chemistry that provide both controlled drug-release systems and new biomaterials.” He is primarily responsible for innovations in polymer chemistry that have had a profound impact on medicine, particularly in the areas of drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Prof. George Mostow of Yale University and Prof. Michael Artin of MIT will share the mathematics prize. Mostow was cited for his fundamental and pioneering contribution to geometry and Lie group theory, while Artin cited for his fundamental contributions to algebraic geometry. Artin’s mathematical accomplishments are “astonishing for their depth and their scope. He is one of the great geometers of the 20th century,” the judges panel said.

Prof. Juan Ignacio Cirac of Germany’s Max Planck Institute and Prof. Peter Zoller of Innsbruck University in Austria will share the physics prize – both for groundbreaking theoretical contributions to quantum information processing, quantum optics and the physics of quantum gases. The two are recognized as among the most prominent theorists in quantum optics, quantum information science and the theory of quantum gases.

The agriculture prize will be shared by Prof. Joachim Messing of Rutgers University in New Jersey and Prof. Jared Diamond of the University of California, Los Angeles. Messing is cited for innovations in recombinant DNA cloning, which revolutionized agriculture, and for deciphering the genetic codes of crop plants. Diamond was praised for pioneering theories of crop domestication, the rise of agriculture and its influences on the development and demise of human societies, and its impact on the ecology of the environment.

Finally, the architecture prize will be awarded to Eduardo Souto de Mouro of Portugal for the advancement of architectural knowledge in demonstrating how buildings can engage with the natural world and for his exceptional skills as a designer. Of particular note, the judges said, is the coexistence that his buildings establish between society and nature, most poignantly in the stadium at Braga.

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