The names of the 2007 Balzan Prize winners were announced today in a public event:
- Rosalyn Higgins (UK), President of the International Court of Justice, The Hague, for international law after 1945
- Michel Zink (France), Collège de France, Paris, for European literature (1000-1500)
- Bruce Beutler (USA) and Jules Hoffmann (France), The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California and Académie des Sciences, Paris, for innate immunity
- Sumio Iijima (Japan), Meijo University, Nagoya, for nanoscience
The Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood among Peoples was awarded to Karlheinz Böhm, founder of the humanitarian organization Menschen für Menschen (Humans for Humans).
The profiles of the winners and the motivations of the awards were presented by several members of Balzan's General Prize Committee.
Luzius Wildhaber (former President of the European Court of Human Rights, Professor Emeritus of International, Constitutional and Comparative Law at the University of Basle) justified the assignment of the Balzan Prize for International Law since 1945 to Rosalyn Higgins as follows: "for her outstanding contributions to the development of international law since the Second World War and her role as an academic, judge and Court President; for her clear, constructive as well as innovative and groundbreaking books, writings, articles and court decisions in defence of the rule of law and human rights; for her leading role in strengthening and enlarging modern international law".
Karlheinz Stierle (member of the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Professor Emeritus of Romance literature at the University of Constance and Corresponding Fellow of the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques, Paris) justified the assignment of the Prize for European Literature (1000-1500) to Michel Zink as follows: "for his fundamental contributions to the understanding of French and Occitan literature in the Middle Ages, a decisive chapter in the development of modern European literature; for his new interpretation of the relation between medieval and modern literature; for his seminal initiatives that have brought the literature of the Middle Ages back into the cultural tradition of France and Europe".
Nicole Le Douarin (Honorary Permanent Secretary of the Académie des Sciences and Honorary Professor at the Collège de France) justified the assignment of the Prize for Innate Immunity jointly to Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann as follows: "for their discovery of the genetic mechanisms responsible for innate immunity. They have worked in close cooperation to develop a new vision of the molecular defence strategy deployed by animals across a wide evolutionary spectrum against infectious agents. Their work has led to very promising medical applications".
Nicola Cabibbo (Professor of Physics at the University La Sapienza in Rome, Fellow of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome and President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences) justified the assignment of the Prize for Nanoscience to Sumio Iijima as follows: "for his discovery of carbon nanotubes and in particular the discovery of single walled carbon nanotubes and the study of their properties".
The President of the Balzan Foundation "Prize", Ambassador Bruno Bottai motivated the assignment of the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood among Peoples to Karlheinz Böhm as follows: "for his life's work serving humanity and peace, for his extraordinary personal commitment, for the successful, outstanding network of activities he has created to support concrete affirmative action in Ethiopia, a country with one of the most ancient cultures in the world, but one of the poorest".
The President of the General Prize Committee, Sergio Romano, added that the awarded subjects, which vary each year, make it possible to encourage specific fields of study which are new or unknown to other international awards. As usual, the Committee's 20 prestigious scholars from 11 different European countries put a great deal of effort in selecting the winners from among the candidates submitted by the most important international cultural institutions.
Ambassador Bottai, expressed satisfaction for the prestige of the eminent scholars who will receive the Balzan Prize on 23 November in Berne (in compliance with the rule of alternation between the Italian and the Swiss capitals). It is important to remember that the Balzan Foundation requests that half of the million Swiss Francs received by the winner of each of the four subjects be destined for research work, preferably involving young scholars and researchers.
The announcement, which took place at Milan's Ulrico Hoepli Civic Planetarium under the auspices of the City of Milan and with the participation of Mayor Letizia Moratti, Commissioner for Culture Vittorio Sgarbi and President of the City Council Manfredi Palmeri, was followed by a lecture by Professor Paolo de Bernardis, 2006 Balzan Prize for Observational Astrophysics and Astronomy and Professor of Astrophysics at the University La Sapienza in Rome. The lesson, titled "Archaeology of the Universe", illustrated how the analysis of cosmic microwave background radiation allows the observation of the first evolutionary stages in the Universe after the Big Bang.
The International Balzan Prize Foundation, founded in 1957, operates from two different offices. The Balzan Foundation "Prize" (chaired in Milan by Ambassador Bruno Bottai) selects the subjects to be awarded and the candidatues through its General Prize Committee. The Balzan Foundation "Fund" (chaired in Zurich by Achille Casanova) administers the estate left by Eugenio Balzan.