Saturday, January 19, 2008

American scientists awarded Japan Prize | January 18, 2008

TOKYO, Japan, The Science and Technology Foundation of Japan announced three winners of the 2008 Japan Prize Wednesday in Tokyo. All three laureates are American scientists engaged in Internet technology and medical genetics.

The Japan Prize is awarded to people whose original achievements in science and technology are recognized as having advanced the frontiers of knowledge and served the cause of peace and prosperity for mankind. Each laureate receives a certificate of merit, a commemorative medal and a cash award of 50 million yen (US$468,000) in each prize category.

The Japan Prize "should reveal a history showing both scientific and technological progress and the resultant history of peace and prosperity," says Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, chairman of the Science and Technology Foundation, a non-profit foundation affiliated to the Cabinet Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The foundation has awarded the prize to 63 recipients in the last 23 years.

Each year, two categories are designated for the awards. This year's awards were selected from the categories of information and communication theory and technology and medical genomics and genetics.

Already known as "fathers of the Internet," Dr. Vinton Gray Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google Inc., and Dr. Robert Elliot Kahn, chairman of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, received an award for the creation of network architecture and communication protocol for the Internet.

In the course of their efforts, they proposed the concept of open architecture as a way to meet the need to connect diverse devices to a network. Also in order to realize this concept, they created the TCP/IP protocol used in today's Internet, presenting it in a co-authored paper published in 1974 in a leading technical journal. Based on the results of their early research, they jointly developed the Internet's communications protocol.

The foundation said that thanks to their work, a social network, unprecedented in human history, had come into being, people's living space had been enormously enlarged, and the most important foundation for sustaining globalization had been laid. Thus, these two pioneers played a decisive role in the evolution and advancement of modern culture and society.

Another laureate, Dr. Victor A. McKusick, also respected as the father of human genetics, received his award for the establishment of medical genetics and contributions to its development.

With the completion of the human genome project, we have come to understand almost all of the genetic information contained in DNA, which is encoded in a series of letters. However, we are still some way from fully identifying those parts which are related to the treatment of diseases.

The foundation commended McKusick for spending over half a century compiling knowledge on genetics, and advocating the importance of the formulation of a genomic map for genetic disorders. Today, researchers and clinicians around the world are sharing the fruits of McKusick's labors, which have become indispensable to the world of genetic medicine.

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