Blair, Gallo among $1m. Dan David Prize winners

Astrophysicists Dr. Paolo de Bernardis, Andrew Lange and Paul Richards will share the third prize.

Blair 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Blair 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Former British prime minister Tony Blair and the co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, Prof. Robert Gallo, will receive two of the three 2009 Dan David Prizes at Tel Aviv University., the panel of judges announced on Monday. They will each receive $1 million, while three astrophysicists will share another $1m. for the third prize. The Dan David Prize, awarded in the Past, Present and Future Dimension, is named for international businessman and philanthropist Dan David and is headquartered at Tel Aviv University. The laureates, who annually donate 20 scholarships of $15,000 each to outstanding doctoral and post-doctoral students throughout the world in the chosen fields, will be honored at a TAU ceremony on May 17 and receive their awards from President Shimon Peres. The Past Dimension has the theme this year of "Astrophysics - History of the Universe." The winners are Dr. Paolo de Bernardis (University La Sapienza in Rome); Andrew Lange (California Institute of Technology) and Paul Richards (University of California at Berkeley) for their discoveries concerning the geometry and composition of the Universe with the BOOMERanG and MAXIMA experiments. The publication of their data in 2000 provided the first undisputed evidence that the universe has a flat geometry. The BOOMERanG team led by de Bernardis and Lange, and the MAXIMA team led by Richards, started as one experiment and reported results nearly simultaneously. The new technology they developed enabled a pioneering measurement of the characteristic angular scale over which the temperature of the cosmic microwave background varies on the sky. This scale, related to the distance traveled by sound waves when the microwave background decoupled in the early cosmic history (and known as "the first acoustic peak"), provides a robust yardstick for measuring the geometry of the universe. Blair, who led the British Labor Party in 1994 until he stepped down as prime minister in 2007 and now an envoy of the UN, the European Union, Russia and the US with a mission to bring stability and peace to the Middle East through a two-state solution, was cited for the Present Dimension. He is praised for having exercised a "pragmatic approach, strong conviction and personal charisma to help usher in a period of remarkable economic and cultural growth. He helped broker an agreement between Unionists and Republicans in Northern Ireland; he engineered, against all odds, the policy that resolved the crisis in Kosovo, and he was one of the architects of transforming Britain's position in the EEC," the panel stated. Gallo (of the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore) was cited for his work in the Future Dimension on the HIV and T-cell leukaemia viruses - and especially for the development of an accurate, simple blood test to detect HIV, which has had a huge effect on the epidemiology of AIDS. The philanthropist who funded the prize said: "The 2009 laureates epitomize the essence of the three Time Dimensions; we have three scientists who shed light on the way in which our universe was formed, a great leader instrumental in resolving on-going world conflicts and a scientist working to alleviate human disease and suffering now and in the future." TAU president Prof. Zvi Galil, who is chairman of the Dan David Prize board of directors, added his congratulations to the distinguished laureates of what is known as "Israel's Nobel Prize."