Once every two years, the Tang Prize awards those scholars and scientists who have contributed the most to human advancement. This September 21, eight Tang Prize laureates were bestowed this great honor in front of an audience of over 2,000 guests at the 2018 Tang Prize Award Ceremony, held at Taipei’s iconic Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.
Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation, noted in his opening address how the theme of this year’s Tang Prize, “Sparking the Future,” looks both to the past and the future for inspiration. It couples with a line from the Great Learning, a classic text of Chinese thought, that says one must continually push one’s body and mind towards the goal of perfection. Only then can the individual and the society prosper. This concept reflects the intention of the Tang Prize— contribution to humanity.
Shu Chien, Chairman of the Tang Prize Selection Committee, stressed the importance of the four categories of the prize, Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law, saying that they are foundational to humanity in the 21st century. Within those four fields, the 2018 laureates have made substantial, earth-changing contributions. For adding to the wealth of civilization and improving the world, they were awarded the prestigious prize.
A total of eight laureates were awarded this year, the highest in Tang Prize history. Veerabhadran Ramanathan (UC San Diego) and James E. Hansen (Columbia University) in Sustainable Development; Tony Hunter (UC San Diego), Brian J. Druker (Oregon Health & Science University), and John Mendelsohn (The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center) in Biopharmaceutical Science; Stephen Owen (Harvard University) and Yoshinobu Shiba (Toyo Bunko) in Sinology; and Joseph Raz (Columbia Law School) in Rule of Law. John Mendelsohn was represented at the event by his son, Jeff Mendelsohn.
Each of the laureates noted the significance of receiving such a rare honor. In his address on receiving the prize, Hansen again highlighted the impact that climate change has on our everyday lives. Indeed, he said, it is an ever-present threat. For the solution of such a global and intractable problem, he points to the younger generation, calling on them to understand and work together to solve the multivariate problem of energy. Hansen was followed by his fellow laureate Ramanathan, who added that climate change has become a problem not just of technology, but one of morality and justice. The topic warrants such attention that his own daughter, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren have all devoted themselves to finding its solutions.
A topic on the minds of many in today’s world, targeted treatment for cancer therapy was the achievement awarded of the recipients of the prize in Biopharmaceutical Science. Targeted therapy originated with a discovery by Hunter in 1979—tyrosine phosphorylation and that the oncogene src is a tyrosine kinase. Druker and Mendelsohn further cultivated the original discovery of Hunter’s and were essential in developing what we use in therapies today. Both Druker and Mendelsohn (represented by his son), in their addresses, expressed their admiration of Hunter for making such an amazing discovery.
Owen and Shiba, joint recipients in Sinology, have each made significant contributions to Sinology; Owen in the study of Tang poetry and Shiba in Song dynasty mercantilism. They shared their joys and experiences in the field of Sinology over these past years, and expressed their thanks at receiving such a prize.
Raz, recipient in Rule of Law, made an especial point that research in the law is inter-disciplinary. He added The essence of the rule of law is in its transparency, its stability, and predictability in consistent and universal application to human affairs, whether they be individual or societal or national.
The gala event was opened by the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra playing the Fanfare for the Tang Prize. Former US Vice President Dan Quayle, President Boris Vladimirovich Gusev of the Moscow-based International Academy of Engineering and the Russian Academy of Engineering, and President of the Control Yuan Chang Po-ya were among the many notable heads of state and academia in attendance. In total, 2,000 attendees witnessed the event, including representatives and leaders of many representative offices and chambers of commerce, academicians or the Academia Sinica, presidents and dean of universities and high schools, as well as teachers and students.
Awarding the medal and diplomas for 2018 were former president of the Academia Sinica Yuan Tseh Lee in Sustainable Development, 2014 Tang Prize laureate Tasuku Honjo in Biopharmaceutical Science, vice president of the Academia Sinica Chin-shing Huang in Sinology, and 2014 Tang Prize laureate Albie Sachs in Rule of Law. Introducing the winners were Frank Hsia-San Shu, Hsing-Jien Kung, and David Der-wei Wang (academicians of the Academia Sinica), and Paul P. Craig, Professor of English Law at the University of Oxford.