Annual Dan David Prize Awarded
Photo: From left: Prof. Svante Pääbo; Prof. Ellen D. Williams; Jamaica Kincaid; TAU Honorary Fellow Gabriela David; Chairman of the Dan David Foundation Prof. Itamar Rabinovich; Prof. David Reich; TAU Governor Ariel David; Prof. Andrzej Udalski; TAU President Joseph Klafter; A. B. Yehoshua; and Prof. Shrinivas Kulkarni.
Credit: Israel Hadari
Prize shines light on some of the best and brightest minds of our time
The Annual Dan David Prize, endowed by the Dan David Foundation and administered by TAU, was awarded during the 2017 Board of Governors Meeting. This is the 16th year that the prize has rewarded excellence in the scientific, cultural and social spheres.
TAU Governor Ariel David, son of the late Dan David and a board member of the Dan David Prize and Dan David Foundation, told the audience: “As time goes by I can’t help thinking that this project my father founded is becoming more and more relevant. In an era of post-truth, when knowledge and expertise seem to count for little, when rigorous research efforts and empirical data are juxtaposed against so-called alternative facts, I believe it is incumbent upon us to defend the sciences, humanities and the arts and an important way to do so is to shine a light on the achievements of some of the best and brightest minds of our time,” said David. “When my father created the prize, he did so out of a desire to show people, especially young people, that a life in the service of humanity and the pursuit of knowledge in all disciplines is something that should be aspired to, recognized and rewarded.”
Recalling Dan David, founder and visionary of the Prize, TAU President Joseph Klafter said, “Dan was an especially alert and insightful man. He believed that intellectual endeavor was a journey toward understanding who we were, what we are today and what we will become. The 2017 Prize fields express this journey of discovery from the personal to the collective, from molecules to stars, and from the distant past to the boundless future.”
This year’s prize for the Past Dimension, “Archaeology and Natural Sciences,” was awarded to geneticists Prof. Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who is the world’s leading expert on sequencing the DNA of archaic hominins; and Prof. David Reich of Harvard Medical School, for his leading role in developing analytical and computational tools to study DNA retrieved from ancient humans.
The Prize in the Present Time Division, in the field of “Literature,” was shared by two great literary personalities: Caribbean-American writer, Jamaica Kincaid, whose writing expresses one of the most unique voices of both postcolonial women’s literature and of ethnic minorities; and A. B. Yehoshua, one of Israel’s canonical authors, whose work addresses underlying problems of the Israeli condition and their historical antecedents in compelling and innovative ways.
The prize in the Future Dimension, “Astronomy,” was shared by three trailblazing astrophysicists: the late Prof. Neil Gehrels of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (1952-2017), USA, whose ground-breaking work on cosmic explosions known as gamma-ray bursts furthered understanding of the phenomenon; Prof. Shrinivas Kulkarni of the California Institute of Technology, a leading figure in domain astrophysics whose work has transformed our knowledge of the transient sky, turning up thousands of supernovae and other cosmic explosions; and Prof. Andrzej Udalski of the University of Warsaw, Poland, whose pioneering research has characterized over half a million variable stars of all types, and discovered many tens of extra-solar planets using a unique gravitational microlensing technique.
Attending were TAU Honorary Fellow Gabriela David, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Prof. Nili Cohen and Chairman of the TAU Board of Governors Prof. Jacob A. Frenkel, as well as diplomats, senior TAU officials, academic faculty members, governors and friends.
The family of Prof. Gehrels donated his prize money to astrophysics students at the University of Maryland.