Wolf Foundation Announces 2013 Wolf Prize Laureates

Wolf Foundation Announces 2013 Wolf Prize Laureates

The Israeli minister of education Gideon Sa’ar announced the winners of the 2013 Wolf Foundation Prizes in sciences and arts. Announcement of the winners was made at a public event that took place this evening in Tel Aviv, attended by the Minister.

This year, the five $100,000 prizes are shared by 8 winners from 4 countries: United States, Germany, Austria and Portugal. Prizes will be awarded in five fields: in the sciences – physics, mathematics, agriculture, and chemistry; and in the arts – in architecture. The prizes will be awarded by President Shimon Peres at a ceremony in May 2013 at the Knesset.

Minister of Education and Chairperson of the World Foundation, Gideon Sa’ar, who announced the recipients, stated, “The announcement of the recipients of the 2013 Wolf Prize is a cause for celebration in the science and art community in the world and in Israel. This year’s prize recipients join a distinguished group of leading scientists and artists who have received this prestigious award. The activities of the Wolf Foundation and its international standings reflect Israel’s status as a leader in advanced science and research. In this term, we are investing in promoting research excellence, based on our determination to maintain and strengthen our status at the forefront of global research, which is crucial for Israel’s future. The State of Israel has made and continues to make a significant contribution toward scientific and intellectual excellence.”

The Wolf Prize is awarded annually by the Wolf Foundation in five areas: four prizes in the sciences and one prize in the arts, in fixed rotation. The prize is awarded to preeminent scientists and artists “for the unique contribution to mankind and friendly relations among peoples ... irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex or political views.” To date, 282 recipients from 23 countries have been awarded the Wolf Prize.

The Wolf Prize has gained international prestige, and in the sciences is considered second in importance to the Nobel Prize. In the arts, the Wolf Prize is considered an extremely important award. Over 33 Wolf Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in the fields of science honored by both prizes (medicine, physics, and chemistry). Wolf Prize recipients in the sciences include Prof. Avraham Hershko, Prof. Ada Yonath, and Prof. Dan Shechtman, recently appointed as Deputy Chairperson of the Wolf Foundation; Wolf Prize recipients in the arts include Maestros Placido Domingo, Zubin Mehta, conductor Isaac Stern, Daniel Barenboim, and Riccardo Muti.

 

 

Prize Laureates

Chemistry

Prof. Robert S. Langer of M.I.T, USA

“For conceiving and implementing advances in polymer chemistry

that provide both controlled drug-release systems and new biomaterials.”

Details of Langer’s Achievements:

Robert Langer is primarily responsible for innovations in polymer chemistry that have had profound impact on medicine, particularly in the areas of drug delivery and tissue engineering.

The last 40 years has seen a rapid increase in the availability of sophisticated macromolecular drugs, such as oligopeptides, proteins, polysaccharides, and nucleic acids, with high potency but limited stability, often surviving for only minutes under physiological conditions. The promise of these agents both for biological research and for medical applications - ranging from vaccination to gene therapy to treatment of brain cancer and schizophrenia - was limited by the problem of delivering them intact to the tissues where they were needed, at the proper rate, and over the required period of time, which can range up to many months.

 

Langer was convinced that it would be possible to design entirely new biodegradable polymers that could meet the simultaneous daunting challenges of protecting a sensitive drug until it was needed, delivering it to the target tissue, and releasing it slowly and steadily over a very long time. It was of course essential that both these new polymers and their degradation products be biocompatible.

 

After long cycles of fundamental design and experimentation Langer was able to achieve this goal by tailoring new polymers with very low affinity for water that were joined through links that could be cleaved by water, but not by enzymes whose activity would vary from patient to patient and over time in an individual patient. Low water affinity serves both to protect the macromolecular cargo from degradation and to insure surface erosion of the particle at a rate that can be programmed by its degree of water affinity and by its shape. He was successful in creating a new class of polyanhydrides with aromatic heads and aliphatic tails, in developing the first procedures for synthesizing these polymers, and in shaping polymer-drug aggregates to achieve appropriate therapeutic deliveries. For example, Lupron Depot is injected as a suspension of tiny particles to achieve steady delivery of hormone analogues for up to four months in treating prostate cancer and endometriosis, while Gliadel wafers are surgically implanted at the site of a brain tumor for long-term, short-range delivery of a highly toxic drug.

Langer has built on this success to design and implement polymeric drug delivery systems that effect controlled drug release in response to magnetic, ultrasonic, or biological stimuli.

In addition to his pioneering work on designing polymers for drug delivery Langer has been the leader in designing bioabsorbable polymers to serve as scaffolds for holding mammalian cells in place during tissue reconstruction. This work led to the first “artificial skin” based on synthetic polymers that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

 

Mathematics

Prof. George Mostow, Yale, USA:For his fundamental and pioneering contribution to geometry and Lie group theory.

 

Prof. Michael Artin, M.I.T, USA: For his fundamental contributions to algebraic geometry, both commutative and non-commutative.

 

 

George D. Mostow made a fundamental and pioneering contribution to geometry and Lie group theory. His most celebrated accomplishment in this fields is the discovery of the completely new rigidity phenomenon in geometry, the Strong Rigidity Theorems. These theorems are some of the greatest achievements in mathematics in the second half of the 20th century. This established a deep connection between continuous and discrete groups, or equivalently, a remarkable connection between topology and geometry. Mostow's rigidity methods and techniques opened a floodgate of investigations and results in many related areas of mathematics. Mostow's emphasis on the “action at infinity” has been developed by many mathematicians in a variety of directions. It had a huge impact in geometric group theory, in the study of Kleinian groups and of low dimensional topology , in work connecting ergodic theory and Lie groups. Mostow's contribution to mathematics is not limited to strong rigidity theorems. His work on Lie groups and their discrete subgroups which was done during 1948-1965 was very influential. Mostow's work on examples of nonarithmetic lattices in two and three dimensional complex hyperbolic spaces (partially in collaboration with P. Delinge) is brilliant and lead to many important developments in mathematics. In Mostow's work one finds a stunning display of a variety of mathematical disciplines. Few mathematicians can compete with the breadth, depth, and originality of his works.

Michael Artin is one of the main architects of modern algebraic geometry. His fundamental contributions encompass a bewildering number of areas in this field.

To begin with, the theory of étale cohomology was introduced by Michael Artin jointly with Alexander Grothendieck. Their vision resulted in the creation of one of the essential tools of modern algebraic geometry. Using étale cohomology Artin showed that the finiteness of the Brauer group of a surface fibered by curves is equivalent to the Birch and Swinerton-Dyer conjecture for the Jacobian of a general fiber. In a very original paper Artin and Swinerton-Dyer proved the conjecture for an elliptic K3 surface.

 

He also collaborated with Barry Mazur to define étale homotopy- another important tool in algebraic geometry- and more generally to apply ideas from algebraic geometry to the study of diffeomorphisms of compact manifold.

 

We owe to Michael Artin, in large part, also the introduction of algebraic spaces and algebraic stacks. These objects form the correct category in which to perform most algebro-geometrical constructions, and this category is ubiquitous in the theory of moduli and in modern intersection theory. Artin discovered a simple set of conditions for a functor to be represented by an algebraic space. His ''Approximation Theorem'' and his ''Existence Theorem'' are the starting points of the modern study of moduli problems Artin's contributions to the theory of surface singularities are of fundamental importance. In this theory he introduced several concepts that immediately became seminal to the field, such as the concepts of rational singularity and of fundamental cycle.

 

In yet another example of the sheer originality of his thinking, Artin broadened his reach to lay rigorous foundations to deformation theory. This is one of the main tools of classical algebraic geometry, which is the basis of the local theory of moduli of algebraic varieties.

 

Finally, his contribution to non-commutative algebra has been enormous. The entire subject changed after Artin's introduction of algebro-geometrical methods in this field. His characterization of Azumaya algebras in terms of polynomial identities, which is the content of the Artin-Procesi theorem, is one of the cornerstones in non-commutative algebra. The Artin-Stafford theorem stating that every integral projective curve is commutative is one of the most important achievements in non-commutative algebraic geometry.

 

Artin's mathematical accomplishments are astonishing for their depth and their scope . He is one of the great geometers of the 20th century.

 

Physics

Prof. Juan Ignacio circa Max plank Institute, Germany

Prof. Peter Zoller, Innsbruck University, Austria

Both for groundbreaking theoretical contributions to quantum information processing, quantum optics and the physics of quantum gases.

Ignacio Cirac and Peter Zoller are undoubtedly recognized as one of the most prominent theorists in quantum optics, quantum information science and the theory of quantum gases. Their impact on these fields of research cannot be overestimated and is outstanding by all means used to eva luate them.

 

Among their numerous common works, two specific works stand alone and opened new fields of research. In 1995, Cirac and Zoller proposed a model for a quantum computer, which could be practically implemented with the help of trapped ions. The very concrete nature of their proposal led numerous groups worldwide to successful experiments and has inspired many researchers both theorists and experimentalists. Such a quantum computer would be able to solve problems currently beyond the abilities of classical computers, such as the factorization of large numbers, which currently requires exponentially large computing time.

 

Their second outstanding contribution came as an outcome of the realization of gaseous Bose-Einstein condensates. They proposed to use such cold atoms as a general versatile toolbox to probe new regimes of many-body physics and to simulate condensed matter problems such as strongly correlated electronic systems. In their most famous work, Cirac and Zoller showed that an optical lattice can simulate a tight binding regime where the on-site interaction energy becomes comparable to the tunneling energy between neighboring sites. This paper had a tremendous impact and was soon followed by experimental realization of this quantum phase transition from a superfluid to a Mott insulator. Since then, a whole new interdisciplinary community has emerged exploring other condensed matter problems such as e.g. superconductivity, quantum magnetism, Quantum Hall effects, and Anderson localization. There is no doubt that these quantum simulators using cold atoms, will and already have had a huge impact on the whole fields of quantum physics, condensed matter physics and material science.

 

Agriculture

Prof. Joachim Messing, Rutgers, USA: for innovations in recombinant DNA cloning that revolutionized agriculture and deciphering the genetic codes of crop plants.

Prof. Jared M. Diamond, UCLA, USA: for pioneering theories of crop domestication, the rise of agriculture and its influences on the development and demise of human societies, as well as its impact on the ecology of the environment.

 

The Wolf prize award selection committee recommends honoring two exceptional scientists that have made complementary, seminal contributions to fundamental challenges facing agriculture, namely the domestication and effective utilization of diverse biophysical resources to develop sustainable agricultural production systems and crops.

 

Research of the two recipients is conducted at two distinctly different levels.

Professor Messing’s work emphasizes the micro level; gene function, gene cloning, gene sequencing – all geared towards crop understanding and agricultural improvement. This work contributed not only to the realization of the importance of unraveling plant genomes but publicly available tools were developed proving to be absolutely essential to feasibly conduct such studies. Methods were developed to harness plant gene biodiversity to improve utilization of plants as providers of food, feed and fiber. Prof Messing developed the unique "shotgun DNA sequencing" method, a pioneering cloning technology that served as the basis for analysis of large size genomes as found in crop plants. His consequent technological innovations allowed sequencing genomes of complex organisms, and particularly those of importance to agriculture. Importantly, Messing's work was freely available to the public, thus he contributed directly to plant production, improved agronomic traits and food safety, and developed the necessary tools for such analyses that have been used by countless researchers. His contributions were critical for the development of Bt-resistant strains of maize and cotton that have been remarkably successful and still widely used. Recognizing the importance of maize in many diets, and its relatively poor protein content, he strived to improve the protein value of maize by developing improved maize cultivars with increased levels methionine and lysine. These improvements, too, have been made available without monetary compensation. As founder of the plant genome initiative at Rutgers (PGIR), he directly contributed to the genome sequencing of rice, sorghum and maize. The Wolf Prize in Agriculture is a worthy recognition of Joachim Messing's contribution towards the quest to produce nutritious and safer food and is entirely consistent with the spirit of this award

 

Professor Diamond operates at the macro level of societies, continents, plant and animal systems and contributed to the understanding of processes of domestication and their importance in shaping the evolution of agricultural and social systems, emphasizing the introduction of sustainable agricultural and natural resource management systems that recognize the interaction between agriculture and the environment. Professor Diamond has developed a multidisciplinary approach, melding knowledge and methods from biophysical and social sciences, to analyze the historical evolution of human societies across the globe. In his book, Guns Germs and Steel, his multidisciplinary approach shows how ecological and geographical differences between societies affected their domestication opportunities, their agricultural trajectory and other aspects of human evolution: spread of languages, evolution of epidemic diseases and collapse, survival and prosperity of societies. In his book Collapse he uses case studies to document that short-term decision-making ignoring natural resource dynamics that may lead to agricultural collapse. The book makes a strong intellectual case for policy making that emphasizes sustainability considerations. Diamond’s publications and research contributions earned him the 1999 National Medal of Science. The enormous and impressive scope of Prof. Jared's scholarship (depth and breadth) that focuses on the role of agriculture in human development is worthy for recognition by the Wolf Prize in Agriculture; more importantly, this recognition promotes the implementation of measures, learnt from the history of agriculture, to ascertain success in agriculture's main objective, namely continued provision of food while preserving our natural resources.

Architecture

The jury awarded the prize to Mr. Eduardo Souto de Mouro from Portugal for the advancement of architectural knowledge in showing how buildings can philiosophically and experientially engage with the natural world, and for his exceptional skills as a designer.

Architecture can be considered as the most social of all art forms with a direct impact on each of us as a source of constant inspiration.

In a body of work of different scales and types, in Portugal and abroad, Eduardo Souto de Moura has created a better environment for people in a clear social frame work.

Of particular note is the coexistence that his buildings establish between society and nature, most poignantly in the stadium at Braga

To reward his advancement of the craft and ideas of architecture, we the undersigned award the Wolf Prize to Edouardo Souto de Moura