WRITTEN BY: PHILLIP WARD | STAFF WRITER
The Kyoto prize is Japan’s most prestigious lifetime achievement award and is awarded in three different categories: Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences and Arts and Philosophy. This year’s winners were on PLNU’s campus last Tuesday, participating in a press event to kick off the Kyoto Prize Symposium.
The symposium continued with a black tie gala on Wednesday night and lectures given by the Kyoto Prize laureates at San Diego State University, University of California San Diego and University of San Diego throughout the week.
The Kyoto Prize was created to recognize contributions to the human race and inspire others to do the same. In the words of the founder and president of the Kyoto Prize, Kazuo Inamori:
“I hope to honor people who have made extraordinary contributions to science, civilization and spirituality and thereby to motivate them and others like them to reach still greater heights.”
This year’s winners were Dr. Toyoki Kunitake in Advanced Technology, Dr. Michel Mayor in Basic sciences and John Neumeier in Arts and Philosophy.
Dr. Kunitake was recognized for discovering synthetic bilayer membranes, which opened a new field of chemistry and can be used in bio-sensor applications, in creating artificial cells, and in creating nanoreactors.
He gave a presentation at San Diego State University on the Wednesday following the press conference on his work in the field.
Dr. Michel Mayor was given the prize for his work in developing our understanding of the universe through the discovery of extra-solar planets.
This discovery and the technology used to get there has dramatically impacted the knowledge of our solar system, its creation and function, and has also opened up interesting possibilities for life in outer space on planets similar to Earth.
Prof Martin Barstow, President of the Royal Astronomical Society in London, shared that: “25 years ago no one could be sure that the Solar System wasn’t unique, as there was no hard evidence for planets in orbit around other stars. Michel Mayor’s pioneering work helped change all that.”
John Neumeier received his prize for developing 20th century ballet to new heights. His combination of classical and abstract ballet has changed the face of contemporary dance, “exert[ing] a major influence on the future of ballet as an art form,” according to the Kyoto Prize’s citation of reasons for which they chose Nuemeier to receive the prize. Neumeier’s dedication to his art is in line with the Kyoto Prize’s underlying philosophy which is, “[To assure] the future of humanity…through a balance of scientific progress and spiritual depth.”
Prize winners are chosen through a rigorous three tiered selection process in which recognized authorities in each field nominates and selects candidates that have contributed to the betterment of humankind.
Candidates are nominated by internationally recognized authorities and are then narrowed down by three consecutive committees representing each of the award categories. The final decision is made by the Board of Directors of the Inamori Foundation which includes the president of the Toyota Technological Institute, Hiroyuki Sakaki and Shun-ichi Amari, Senior Advisor to the Brain Science Institute at RIKEN to name a few.
The President of the Inamori Foundation said the prize is, “A means of recognizing persons who have made outstanding contributions to the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and elevation of the human spirit.”
The level of achievement represented by Kyoto Prize laureates is astonishing. All aspects of life, from the medical realm to the phones in our pockets, have been impacted by the collective work of those recognized by the Kyoto Prize. Past Kyoto Prize recipients were responsible for creating the first MRI’s, inventing the integrated circuit and developing the first microprocessor. Some were biologists who contributed to the sequencing of the human genome. Others were pioneers of space exploration. Three most recent laureates were on our campus less than a week ago.
According to the Kyoto Prize Symposium website, the Symposium is an effort to celebrate the lives of the laureates and to inspire people to pursue the betterment of humankind.
Dr. Bob Brower, in a published message about hosting the Symposium, said, “We are inspired and motivated by the great work of the Laureates,” and that, “We are honored to pursue a better future for our world in partnership with our fellow host universities, the Kyoto Prize Laureates, and the Inamori Foundation.”