The Kavli Prize Laureates 2008
Seven pioneering scientists who have transformed human knowledge in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience and have become the first recipients of the million-dollar Kavli prizes.
Maarten Schmidt Donald Lynden-Bell
"for their seminal contributions to understanding the nature of quasars"
The astrophysics prize was awarded jointly to Maarten Schmidt, of the California Institute of Technology, US, and Donald Lynden-Bell, of Cambridge University, UK, both of whose work underpins our understanding of quasars.
During the 1960s Schmidt analysed the visible light spectra of quasars and used the results to explain just how distant these extraordinarily bright galaxies are, while Lynden-Bell demonstrated how they were powered by the collapse of material into massive black holes.
Louis E. Brus Sumio Iijima
"for their large impact in the development of the nanoscience field of the zero and one dimensional nanostructures in physics, chemistry and biology"
Louis E. Brus, of Columbia University, US, and Sumio Iijima, of Meijo University in Japan, share the nanoscience prize for their respective discoveries of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, also known as quantum dots, and carbon nanotubes.
Major advances being predicted in fields as diverse as electronics, the environment, energy and bio-medicine would not have been possible without Brus and Iijima’s contributions in explaining the unusual properties of particles so small that electron motion is confined to zero or one dimension.
Pasko Rakic Thomas Jessell Sten Grillner
"for discoveries on the developmental and functional logic
of neuronal circuits"
The neuroscience prize goes to three scientists who collectively have deciphered the basic mechanisms which govern the development and functioning of the networks of cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Pasko Rakic, of the Yale University School of Medicine, in the US, explained how the neurons in the embryonic brain arrange themselves during development into the complex, densely interconnected circuitry of the adult cerebral cortex.
Thomas Jessell, of Columbia University, US, has revealed the chemical signals behind the differentiation of early progenitor cells into the complex assembly of different types of neurons that make up neuronal circuits.
Sten Grillner, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden showed how neural circuits in mammalian spinal cords generate motor commands for rhythmic movements such as locomotion. His lamprey model is seen as the first and so far only vertebrate neuronal system controlling an integrated function that is understood at a molecular and cellular level.
The laureates were selected for their groundbreaking research that has significantly advanced our understanding of the unusual properties of matter on an ultra-small scale, the basic circuitry of the human brain and the nature of quasars.
They are the inaugural recipients of the new Kavli prizes, a partnership between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The three biannual awards will complement the Nobel Prizes which since 1901 have been given for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.
The joint seven winners, from the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan and the US, will receive a scroll, medal and a share of the $1,000,000 prize for each subject. Ole Didrik Lærum, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, revealed the names of those selected to receive the awards at a ceremony in Oslo. The announcement was transmitted via a live simulcast to Columbia University, New York, where it was part of the opening of the first annual World Science Festival.
More about the prize winners 2008
Autobiography of Louis Brus