Tang Prize laureates receive awards in Taipei (Focus Taiwan)

  • 2018 Tang Prize Ceremony
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Taipei, Sept. 21 (CNA) A grand ceremony was held at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei Friday, at which eight 2018 Tang Prize laureates received awards honoring their achievements in the fields of sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law.

Seven laureates attended the ceremony, including James Edward Hansen and Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who shared the award for Sustainable Development; Yoshinobu Shiba and Stephen Owen the prize for Sinology; and Joseph Raz, the sole winner of the Rule of Law prize.

Tony Hunter, Brian Druker and John Mendelsohn received the award for Biopharmaceutical Science, with Mendelsohn's son Jeff Mendelsohn accepting the award on his father's behalf at the Friday ceremony.

This is the first time eight awardees have been honored since the biennial award was launched in 2014 to honor top researchers in the four fields.

In his award acceptance speech, Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego in the United States, called for greater efforts to be made to prevent global warming.

If we act now, the worst consequence of global warming can still be prevented, he said.

Ramanathan was the first to point out the significant greenhouse effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). His research on the effects of CFCs on the ozone layer and the ramifications for climate was a major impetus for the language in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985, and negotiations for the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987.

Sharing the prize for sustainable development with Ramanathan, Hansen, a former scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), said it is of paramount importance that we do not leave the thorny problem of global warming for future generations to deal with.

He said he plans to use the prize money to write a book that encourages young people to learn about the crisis of climate change so that they can stand up and force their governments to address the crisis for the future of the planet.

The laureate in rule of law, Joseph Raz, said that he greatly admires the direction the Tang Prize Foundation has taken and the example it sets, in signaling out areas of vital importance to the future of humanity, and in encouraging, through its choices, collaborative and interdisciplinary research.

Raz, 79, who is now the Thomas M. Macioce professor of law at Columbia Law School in the United States and a research professor of law at King's College London in the United Kingdom, said that the rule of law, understood as a distinctive moral doctrine, is not about the content of the law, but about its mode of generation and application.

"Conformity to it helps make government transparent, its aims and means understandable, and, perhaps paradoxically , improve its ability while at the same time opening it to change," he noted, adding that "not only government, but each of us could rely in planning our lives, careers and research, individually and in our groups; and economic activity can be efficiently planned, and opportunity for corruption in public life are greatly reduced."

Stephen Owen, 71, one of the two recipients of the Tang Prize in sinology along with Yoshinobu Shiba, said he was excited to get the the honor.

It was just a small episode that would help him take a pause and reflect on the meaning of his own work because the most important thing is to continue the work, he noted.

Knowledge is something that keeps flowing and changing, something that continues building and dissolving, Owen said.

Shiba, 88, said in the past, sinologists tended to focus their studies on China. The Japanese scholar, however, said he has centered his studies on the development of China and its neighboring countries, on the histories of business and cities, as well as occupational mobility.

Shiba said he felt honored to be credited by the Tang Prize and expressed the hope that this recognition will encourage the younger generations to continue digging into relevant studies.

Tony Hunter, who shared the Tang Prize in biopharmaceutical science along with Brian Druker and John Mendelsohn for discovering tyrosine kinase as oncogenes that led to successful targeted cancer therapies, said humorously that laziness may be a virtue because he made the accidental discovery from being lazy in an experiment.

Druker said that 25 years ago when he affirmed that targeted therapies were the future of cancer treatment, but as few people agreed with him, he had to persuade pharmaceutical companies in to clinical trials.

With the efforts made by the scientific community, it has slowly turned cancer into a manageable chronic disease, allowing many cancer patients to extend their, he noted.

Jeff Mendelsohn, who represented his father John Mendelsohn to accept the award, said that unfortunately his father couldn't come to Taiwan otherwise he would be very happy.

The award ceremony was followed later in the day by a banquet at Grand Hotel in Taipei.

As part of the Tang Prize Week Sept. 19-28, the laureates are to give a series of lectures at universities across the country Sept. 25-28.

The Tang Prize, dubbed by some as the Asian Nobel Prize, was launched in 2014 and is awarded every two years. 

(By Chen Chih-chung, Elizabeth Hsu, Flor Wang and William Yen)