June 21, 2013
Three Americans Receive Prestigious 2013 Kyoto Award
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Three Americans have won the 29th annual Kyoto Prize award for their individual work in biology, music and technology. Dr. Masatoshi Nei an evolutionary biologist and professor at Penn State, will receive the award for his work in the biological sciences. Cecil Taylor, a jazz pianist known for his percussive style, will be honored with the Arts and Philosophy Prize for his work with the musical arts. Finally, Dr. Robert Dennard, the IBM researcher who invented the first DRAM chip in the 1970s, will receive the Advanced Technology Prize for his work in the field of electronics.The Kyoto prize has been handed out every year since 1985 by the Inamori foundation, a philanthropic venture started by the founder and chairman of the Kyocera Corporation and KDDI Corporation, Dr. Kazuo Inamori.
Dr. Masatoshi Nei, age 82, has made evolutionary divergence and genetic diversity his life’s work. In the 1970s Dr. Nei devised a measure of distance which could determine how closely related, evolutionarily speaking, different species were from one another. Using this measure –called Nei’s Distance – he showed that Africans, Asians and Europeans represent only about 11 percent of the genetic variation in the world. He also concluded that these three ethnicities split away from one another in Africa some 115,000 years ago, representing the first “out of Africa” theory of human origin.
Cecil Taylor, 84, has often been hailed as one of the most original jazz pianists of all time. His percussive style of free form jazz made him a standout improviser in the early 60s. Taylor’s style of playing is often compared to playing the piano as if it were a drum kit. His music is intently free form with plenty of atonal structures and little resolution. He began playing in the 1950s and continued all the way into the 2000s, often giving long, marathon-style performances.
Finally, US researcher Dr. Robert Dennard is credited with inventing the most essential building blocks of modern DRAM memory found in many computing devices today. He was awarded a patent for the technology in 1968 and the first DRAM chip went on sale five years later in 1973. At the time Dr. Dennard’s DRAM contained less memory than other chips on the market and sold on 1k to 4k varieties.
Dr. Dennard’s invention was so influential because it not only allowed for the random access of memory (RAM) rather than a sequential access of memory (like a tape), but it also read and wrote this memory down more quickly than previous chips.
As computing took off in the seventies and became the massive industry that it is today, Dr. Dennard’s work on the most essential parts of computing became even more influential and now largely considered responsible for the growth of this industry.
All three of these men, each in their 80s, will fly to Japan in November to receive their awards at a special ceremony in Kyoto. While there they’ll receive a 20-karat gold Kyoto Prize medal, a diploma announcing their honor, and a cash prize of 50 million yen, or about $500,000. The Kyoto Prize has been awarded to researchers, scientists, philosophers and artists from 15 nations. Though based in Japan, this internationally recognized award has been given to more Americans (39) than any other country. In fact, 2013 marks the second time the award has been given exclusively to Americans (the first time was in 1996) and the third time that all of the recipients were from North America.