Forerunners of Innovation: Six Tang Prize Laureates Announced

  • Forerunners of Innovation: Six Tang Prize Laureates Announced
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On the four successive days from June 18 to 21, the Tang Prize Foundation announced for the 2016 Tang Prize awarding event. Recipients in the four categories were Arthur H. Rosenfeld in Sustainable Development; Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer A. Doudna, and Feng Zhang in Biopharmaceutical Science; William Theodore de Bary in Sinology; and Louise Arbour in Rule of Law.


In the 2016 Tang Prize, which marked the second round of the foundation's prize-awarding, there were six awardees in total, one person more than the winners in the first granting of the awards two years ago. The number of female laureates increased from one to three. Also remarkable this time was the age distribution, ranging wide from 34 (a biopharmaceutics expert) to nearly 100 (a sinology mogul). Besides, with more countries and institutions all over the world participating in the activity, nominees grew considerably, varying among the categories, by 20% to 70%, and so the scale of the event is larger than ever.


Aged 90 and known as the "Godfather" of energy efficiency, the American Arthur Rosenfeld was announced as the recipient of the 2016 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development. His contributions are manifested in two aspects: advancement in energy-saving technology and its application to policy-making. The employment of his innovations in society has resulted in "immense reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions around the world." It is estimated that by 2030 the world will have saved a considerable energy outlay of 1.8 trillion dollars and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 7 billion tons equivalent to the yearly amount released by 1.5 billion vehicles.


As global warming is becoming a reality, Professor Rosenfeld's contributions are especially significant in dealing with the global energy crisis. After the efforts of Gro Harlem Brundtland, dubbed "Godmother of sustainable development" and awarded the Tang Prize in 2014, now we have witnessed another outstanding example of human endeavor to tackle the problems related to sustained existence.


The Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science was shared this year by the three joint winners of the French Emmanuelle Charpentier, the American Jennifer A. Doudna, and the Chinese-born American Feng Zhang, for their "development of CRISPR/Cas9 as a breakthrough genome editing platform that promises to revolutionize biomedical research and disease treatment."


Human genomes consist of three billion DNA base pairs and 25,000 genes. A structural flaw or anomaly in this extremely complex scheme causes a variety of human diseases. Efforts were made in the past to develop ways to edit genomes, but the three awardees of the prize have offered a platform known as CRISPR/Cas9 platform (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) that runs rings around the previous ones, whether in efficiency, precision, or sensitiveness. In the future, it can be applied to treatment of genetic illnesses, repair of defective genes, rehabilitation of carcinogenic mutation, elimination of chimeric genes caused by infection of chronic viruses, and so on. Many laboratories around the world are making use of this model to perform genetic engineering on humans and various life forms, including zebrafish, plants, and monkeys. It is no doubt among the greatest technological advancements in the history of genetic studies, and will do a great part in improving the general health of mankind in the not-too-distant future.


The laureateship in Sinology went this time to William Theodore de Bary, a Columbia professor emeritus well versed in the history of Chinese philosophy, for his influential contributions to Confucian studies. He has made empathic as well as critical elaborations on Confucianism and stood out conspicuously on the international stage of sinology. Since the 60's of the last century, many students and scholars have benefited from Professor de Bary's classical book Sources of Chinese Tradition, which presents a comprehensive picture of Chinese classics and civilization to the English-speaking readers.


Professor de Bary once chaired academic projects on East Asian humanities as well as translation projects at Columbia University. He has translated more than 150 classical works, providing a solid foundation for Asian Studies in the United States. In the trend of globalization, his promotion of East Asian literatures has proved outstanding and relevant, not only giving the traditional Chinese thinking an honest affirmation, an impartial critique, and a deep reflection, but also opening a space for dialogue that has been lacking in the Western humanities. He applied the traditional conception in ancient China to contemporary society, discussed modern issues such as human rights, civil society, and environment, and offered his superior insights and solutions. A leading figure in rethinking the humanities in the new-age globalizing climate, he broadened the dialogue between East and West turned it into a global one.


In the category of Rule of Law, the 2016 Tang Prize belonged to the Canadian expert in international law Louise Arbour, who was recognized for her excellent and inspirational performances in her "enduring contributions to international criminal justice and the protection of human rights, to promoting peace, justice and security at home and abroad, and to working within the law to expand the frontiers of freedom for all."


Of Arbour's accomplishments, the most highly acclaimed were the contributions she made during her term as Chief Prosecutor for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where she helped the tribunals to bring to justice major war criminals, including many renowned politicians and military figures. One such prominent example is her prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic, making him the first incumbent head of state to be indicted and brought to justice by the international court of law for committing serious war crimes.


While acting as judge at Ontario Court of Appeal, Arbour led an investigative commission looking into the conditions of the Prison for Women in Kingston, Canada. Her eponymous 1996 Arbour Report called for reform of penitentiaries, paving the way for improved prison administration in Canada. This year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Report, Canada is discussing and reflecting on its monumental significance.


The awarding of the Tang Prize is held every two years. For each category 40 million NTD is offered, and the awardees will receive a research subsidy of 10 million NTD. Aged extensively from thirty-something to somewhere close to 100, the six laureates of the 2016 Tang Prize, with men and women numbering equally, are specialists in different fields seeking to benefit the greatest number of people all over the world. They will come to Taiwan to attend the award ceremony held on September 25. Speeches by the laureates and campus forums will be in order from September 24 to 28 for those interested to open their eyes and see the international masters in person.


2016 Tang Prize Laureates :


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