Tel Aviv University campus.
(photo credit: PR)
Six outstanding individuals will share three Dan David prizes worth $1 million each for their contributions to understanding of the past, present and future.
The announcement of the winners was made Tuesday by Tel Aviv University president Prof. Joseph Klafter, chairman of the Dan David Prize board of directors, and Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, chairman of the Dan David Foundation.
The 2015 award for Retrieving the Past: Historians and their Sources will be shared by Prof. Peter Brown and Prof. Alessandro Portelli.
The prize for the Present: The Information Revolution, will be given to Jimmy Wales. The Future: Bioinformatics Prize will be divided among Dr. Cyrus Chothia, Prof. David Haussler and Prof. Michael Waterman.
Brown is one of the greatest historians of late antiquity.
His groundbreaking studies have reshaped the way we understand social and cultural change. Portelli is one of the greatest practitioners of oral history in our time. “His studies of the interaction between private and collective memory have challenged the way we understand recording the past,” the panel of judges said.
Wales is best known as co-founder of Wikipedia, the online world’s largest encyclopedia, utilized by nearly all Internet users to get information. His stated motivation for creating Wikipedia was to create a world “in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”
Chothia “pioneered the understanding of the relationships between protein sequence, structure, function and interaction.” He classified all known protein structures revealing the widespread occurrence of substructures, or folds.
These substructures help to predict protein structure and, in some cases, protein function.
Haussler was a leading participant in assembling the first draft of the human genome sequence and leads the development of the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Genome Browser, used worldwide for interpreting genome sequences.
The browser includes tools for identifying and comparing genes and genomes, for accessing information on gene structure, function, and regulation, and for revealing gene-disease relationships.
Haussler introduced the use of machine-learning techniques to bioinformatics, which later became a central paradigm in the field.
Waterman made seminal and influential contributions to biological sequence analysis. He developed an algorithm that is the basis for systematic comparison of DNA , RNA and protein sequences, as well as fundamental mathematical models for planning and conducting genome projects, including the Human Genome Project. His leadership was central to the establishment of bioinformatics as a discipline and as a research community, the judges said.
The Dan David Prize is named after the late Dan David, an international businessman and philanthropist.
The prestigious awards stand at the forefront of the world’s academic prizes. The laureates – who donate a tenth of their prize money toward 20 doctoral and postdoctoral scholarships – will be honored at a TAU ceremony on May 17.
Previous laureates include cellist Yo-Yo Ma (2006), conductor Zubin Mehta (2007), former US vice president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore (2008), former British prime minister Tony Blair (2009), AIDS virus co-discoverer Prof. Robert Gallo (2009), Canadian author Margaret Atwood (2010), film directors the Coen Brothers (2011), artist William Kentridge (2012), philosopher Leon Wieseltier (2013) and neuropsychologist Prof. Brenda Milner (2014)