Social historians, sociologists and nanoscientists awarded Dan David prize

The international prize, headquartered in Tel Aviv University, makes three annual awards of $1 million for outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social achievements.

February 12, 2016 01:21
3 minute read.
Tel Aviv University campus

Tel Aviv University campus. (photo credit: PR)

The Dan David Foundation awarded its prizes for 2016 to nine people, including social scientists, historians and nanoscience experts.

The recipients announced on Thursday included Prof. Inga Clendinnen, Prof. Catherine Hall, Prof. Arlette Farge, Prof. Sir Anthony B. Atkinson, Prof. François Bourguignon, Prof. James J. Heckman, Prof. Paul Alivisatos, Prof. Chad Mirkin and Sir John Pendry.

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The international prize, headquartered in Tel Aviv University, makes three annual awards of $1 million for outstanding scientific, technological, cultural or social achievements.

The prize is named after a late international businessman and philanthropist and is among the world’s most prestigious awards. Each year, the foundation awards the prize within the context of past, present, and future time dimensions. This year’s categories include: for the past – “Social History: New Directions,” for the present – “Combating Poverty,” and for the future – “Nanoscience.”

Three women dominated the social history category, with Clendinnen, Hall, and Farge sharing that award.

Clendinnen is an historian focusing on social history and history of cultural practice. Her innovative work has a transnational perspective and includes studies on the oppression of the Maya and on the Holocaust, describing its cultural origin, conduct and consequences.

Hall has had an impact on social history as a pioneer in gender history, race and slavery. While active in the women’s liberation movement, her work focused on women’s history in the 1970s.

Farge has expanded and redefined the craft of the social historian by focusing on the margins of society, such as the poor, small artisans, women and children. She has engaged in women’s history, urban history, and the history of crime and its policing and control, as well as the history of literacy.

Atkinson, Bourguignon and Heckman share the award in the combating poverty category.

Atkinson is a world-leading scholar on poverty and equality, focused on issues of social justice and the design of public policy. His research has centered on rich countries and he has been deeply involved in policy discussion in both Britain and Europe.

Bourguignon, also a world-leading scholar on poverty and equality, has consistently argued for a better understanding and study of equality and for combining growth, equality and poverty into a single thread. His work is global, analyzing poverty and equality within rich and poor countries.

Heckman, in his work on childhood development, promotes the importance of early childhood education, nurture and well-being. His findings fundamentally refocus policy attention, claim wide generality and aim to influence the discussion of global poverty worldwide.

Alivisatos, Mirkin, and Pendry share the award for nanoscience. Alivisatos pioneered the development of the fundamental building blocks of nanotechnology.

Alivisatos and his team first synthesized semiconductor nanocrystals for use as fluorescent probes. His biological quantum dots enabled color-coded identification of multiple cell structures for many biomedical applications.

Mirkin, a highly recognized chemist, pioneered the development of methods for controlling the architecture of nanomolecules and nanomaterials and utilizing such structures in the development of analytical tools that can be used in areas of chemical and biological sensing, lithography and optics.

These innovations have changed the fundamental thinking about how to synthesize and manipulate nano structures, and have resulted in processes and devices that have significantly impacted human lives.

Pendry contributed to a significant advancement in electromagnetism through his concept and designs of a new class of material – metamaterials – which have led to the manufacturing of lenses that beat the diffraction limit, and cloaks to render objects invisible.

He also discovered the “perfect lens” whose resolution is limited only by perfection of manufacture and not by the wavelength.

The laureates, who donate 10 percent of prize money towards 20 doctoral and postdoctoral scholarships, will be honored at a ceremony on May 22 at Tel Aviv University.

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