Dr. Liat Ben David, Director-General of the Wolf Foundation, visited the Tang Prize offices this Friday (April 29) to discuss international prizes and education. Coming herself from a background in science education, Ben David stressed the importance of laureates as role models and leaders for the next generation.
Like many prizes, the Wolf Prize was founded by an inventor who wanted to inspire progress and innovation in society. Dr. Ricardo Subirana y Lobo Wolf erected the prize on two basic principles: human capital, and the concept of a complete mind. Founded in 1975 and awarded first in 1978, the Wolf Prize is now recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious prizes in the arts and sciences.
Prizes are awarded annually in the sciences in the fields of Agriculture, Chemistry, Mathematics, Medicine and Physics; and biennially in the arts in Architecture, Music, Painting and Sculpture. In its near 40 years of operation, awards have been given to 311 people in the arts and sciences from 23 countries. This includes such notables as Chi-Huey Wong of Taiwan in Chemistry.
Science and the arts are made “by and for humanity”, said Ben David, and ought to reflect that reality by investing in education at the basic level. The Wolf Foundation yearly arranges forums, round tables, and seminars between the laureates and high school students from grade ten and up. Topics at these meetings are far from dry: laureates discuss their life’s work, but they also talk about their life, and how they became invested in their studies. Laureates are also tested by the young participants—many of whom are younger than 30, who come prepared with questions aimed at the laureate as a scientist and as a person.
Ben David found common ground between the two prizes in the areas of sustainable development and biopharmaceutical science, which are covered by both the Wolf and Tang Prizes. This commonality between the two prizes could be widened, suggested Ben David, by cooperation between the two sides in educational promotion. As the Director General stressed, prizes like the Tang and Wolf are, after all, founded to improve humanity as a whole. And education is one way to ensure that one generation’s students become the next generation’s scholars.