Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust historian Prof. Saul Friedlander and artificial intelligence pioneer Prof. Marvin Minsky are among the winners of the 2014 Dan David Prize, which annually bestows three awards of $1 million each. The prizes are granted for "proven, exceptional and distinct excellence in the sciences, arts and humanities that have made an outstanding contribution to humanity."
The laureates, who donate 10% of their prize money towards 20 doctoral and postdoctoral Tel Aviv University scholarships, will be honored at a ceremony at the university on May 18, 2014. Prof. Friedlander, Prof. Minsky, and other participants and international dignitaries are scheduled to attend the ceremony.
The Dan David Prize is named after international businessman and philanthropist Dan David with international headquarters located at Tel Aviv University. Each year, the International Board chooses one field within each of the three time dimensions of Past (highlighting fields that expand knowledge of former times), Present (recognizing achievements that shape and enrich contemporary society), and Future (focusing on breakthroughs that hold great promise for the improvement of our world). Following a review process by independent Review Committees comprised of renowned scholars and professionals, the International Board then chooses the laureates for each field.
The 2014 Dan David Prize laureates are:
Past – in the field of "History and Memory": Prof. Saul Friedlander of UCLA, Polish writer and social activist Krzysztof Czyzewsk, and French historian Pierre Nora. Prof. Friedlander is credited with initiating a sustained debate over the proper interpretation of Nazi history and the extent to which the Holocaust and the history of the Third Reich should be considered exceptional. Prof. Friedlander taught at Tel Aviv University for 20 years, before joining UCLA full time in the late 1990s, and he won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945. Krzysztof Czyzewski is a Polish writer and social activist dedicated to the integration of the complicated Polish past within Poland's vibrant civil society; and Pierre Nora the French historian and intellectual who established the concept of "Les Lieux de Memoire" ("Sites of Memory"), at the heart of discussions of the centrality of memory in a media-saturated society.
Present – in the field of "Combating Memory Loss": Prof. John A. Hardy, of University College, London, England; Prof. Peter St. George-Hyslop, of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, England, and the Tanz-Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of Toronto; and Prof. Brenda Milner, of the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University. Prof. Hardy discovered a mutation in the gene coding for the amyloid protein, which plays a key role in neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer's disease. Prof. George-Hyslop was awarded the prize for uncovering key mutations in proteins involved in the early onset of Alzheimer's disease. Prof. Milner's work has demonstrated different kinds of learning and memory, each dependant on a separate system of the brain; her studies have paved the way for ground-breaking memory research.
Future – in the field of "Artificial Intelligence, the Digital Mind": Prof. Marvin Minsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the founders of the field of artificial intelligence. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, Prof. Minsky joined MIT in 1958, co-founding the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory a year later. His book The Society of Mind (1985) is considered the most influential study of the diversity of mechanisms interacting in intelligence and thought. A professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, Prof. Minsky has played a significant role defining the field of artificial intelligence and mentoring generations of scholars.
For more information on the Dan David Prize and this year's laureates, visit the Web site for the awards: http://www.dandavidprize.org
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