TERENCE CAVE FOR LITERATURE, MICHAEL GRÄTZEL FOR NEW MATERIALS, BRENDA MILNER FOR NEUROSCIENCES AND PAOLO ROSSI FOR THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE
Berne – 20 November, 2009 – An appeal to encourage education, training and research, and the recognition for the activity carried out by the International Balzan Foundation in this area were the themes addressed by the Vice President of the Federal Council and Head of the Federal Department for Economic Affairs, Doris Leuthard, on the occasion of the awards ceremony for the 2009 Balzan Prizes, which took place today in Berne in the Federal Council Hall.
The 2009 Balzan Prizes were awarded to Terence Cave (UK, St John s College, Oxford) for Literature since 1500, Michael Grätzel (Switzerland/Germany, EPFL Lausanne) for the Science of New Materials, Brenda Milner (Canada/UK, McGill University, Montreal) for Cognitive Neurosciences, and Paolo Rossi (Italy, University of Florence) for the History of Science. This year, too, each prize has the value of one million Swiss francs. The prizewinners must set aside half of this sum to finance research projects preferably carried out by young scholars or scientists.
The head of the Federal Department for Economic Affairs observed that it would be an error to try to save money in such a vital sector for the future: recalling John F. Kennedy, Federal Councillor Leuthard stated that “only one thing is more costly than education: no education. If we want to meet the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century, like climate change, the aging of society, the development of ecological technology and the scarcity of resources – she concluded – then a special effort is indispensable for education and research.”
The President of the National Council, Chiara Simoneschi-Cortesi, gave a welcome speech to the 250 exponents from the world of politics, culture and the sciences who took part in the ceremony. The Chairmen of the International Balzan Foundation “Fund”, Achille Casanova, and “Prize”, Bruno Bottai, emphasized the Italian-Swiss nature of the Balzan Foundation, which stands as proof of the good relations between these two countries.
Salvatore Veca, Chairman of the General Prize Committee, which is composed of twenty personalities from ten European countries, delivered the laudatio for each of the four 2009 Balzan Prizewinners, who in their acceptance speeches stressed the importance and prestige of the recognition granted to them, as well as their satisfaction at being able to finance, with half of the prize, research projects in favour of young scholars.
The Balzan Prize was awarded to Terence Cave (Literature since 1500) “for his outstanding contributions to a new understanding of Renaissance literature and of the influence of Aristotelian poetics in modern European literature”; to Michael Grätzel (the Science of New Materials) “for his many contributions to the Science of New Materials, and in particular for his invention and development of a new type of photovoltaic solar cell, the Dye Sensitized Cell, commonly known as the Grätzel Cell”; to Brenda Milner (Cognitive Neurosciences): “for her pioneering studies of the role of the hippocampus in the formation of memory and her identification of different kinds of memory system”; and to Paolo Rossi (the History of Science) “for his major contributions to the study of the intellectual foundations of science from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment”.
On the previous day, Thursday, the Balzan Prizewinners Interdisciplinary Forum, organized in cooperation with the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, was held in the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research. The Forum was also attended by previous Balzan Prizewinners, by several members of the Balzan General Prize Committee and members of the Swiss Academy of Arts and Sciences, with Chairman Peter Suter.
The subject areas change every year and the awards ceremony alternates between Berne and Rome. In 2010, the prizes for one million Swiss Francs will be awarded in European History, 1400-1700 including the British Isles; the History of Theatre in all its Aspects, Stem-cells: Biology and potential applications, Mathematics pure or applied. Unlike other prizes, the Balzan favour new lines of study and innovative research, choosing special, interdisciplinary subjects that go beyond the boundaries of traditional subjects, both in the humanities (literature, the moral sciences and the arts) as well as the sciences (physical, mathematical, natural sciences and medicine).
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