Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin handed out the 2012 Wolf Prize in an official ceremony at the Knesset on Sunday evening.
Four awards of $100,000 each were divided among six winners in four areas - physics, medicine, chemistry and mathematics - for their contributions to the advancement of science for humanity. The Wolf Prize is considered second in prestige to the Nobel Prize. One out of every three scientists to win the award eventually goes on to win the Nobel Prize.
This year’s winners were Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who received his prize in the physics category for his work on black holes.
California Institute of Technology Prof. Michael Aschbacher received a prize in the mathematics category for his work on the theory of finite groups. He shared the prize with University of Texas at Austin’s Prof. Luis A. Caffarelli, who received the prize for his work on partial differential equations.
Prof. Ronald M. Evans of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California received a prized in medicine for his discovery of the gene super-family encoding nuclear receptors and elucidating the mechanism of action of this class of receptors.
The chemistry prize was shared by University of California at Berkeley Prof. A. Paul Alivisatos, who won for his development of the colloidal inorganic nanocrystal as a building block of nanoscience and for making fundamental contributions to controlling the synthesis of these particles, to measuring and understanding their physical properties. The second winner was Harvard University’s Prof. Charles Leiber, who won for his seminal contributions to nanochemistry and particularly the synthesis of single-crystalline semiconductor nanowires, characterization of the fundamental physical properties of nanowires, and their application to electronics, photonics and nanomedicine.
In addition to the above, Berlin Philharmonic conductor Sir Simon Rattle and renowned tenor and conductor Placido Domingo received the 2012 Wolf Prize for the Arts.
Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar said during the ceremony, “To this day, the Wolf Prize has been awarded to well-known people from the fields of science and humanities who have shaped science and modern culture. The prize is an expression of the respect we have to those who choose to dedicate their lives to the advancement of science and art.”
Turning to the six science-related winners, Sa’ar said, “You have been chosen for your achievements in physics, mathematics, chemistry and medicine. These achievements are the result of a mission, of the love of the field, of constant curiosity and mostly of the uncompromising pursuit of excellence.”
Sa'ar added, “Israel does not have the privilege of not investing in education, in higher education, science and advanced research. It is vital to ensuring the future of Israel, as well as achieving its destiny. The future of Israel depends on our ability to maintain our qualitative edge. We can only maintain this advantage if we encourage and nurture excellence at all stages of education and place the necessary emphasis on advanced research.”