Science Historians, Bioethicists Head Dan David Prize Winners

This year’s laureates also include a breakthrough cancer researcher

Professor Lorraine Daston
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On Wednesday the nine winners of the 2018 Dan David Prize were announced. The prize is awarded to researchers for extraordinary achievement and contribution to humanity. The prize is divided among three categories – Past, Present and Future, with winners receiving $1 million. This is the 18th year the prize has been given out.

In the Past category, for “fields that expand knowledge of former times,” the laureates are scholars of the history of science. In the Present category, which “recognizes achievements that shape and enrich society today,” the winners are researchers in bioethics, and in the Future category, which “focuses on breakthroughs that hold great promise for improvement of our world,” the prize was given to researchers in personalized medicine.

Among the prizewinners are Professor Mary-Claire King, who discovered the mutation in the BRCA1 gene that predicts a heightened risk for breast and ovarian cancer; Professor Bert Vogelstein, for research that paved the way for targeted therapy for cancer patients; and Professor Evelyn Fox Keller, a physicist, for her work on gender and science.

Professor Ezekiel Emanuel
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One laureate in the Past category is Professor Lorraine Daston, executive director of Berlin’s Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. The prize committee praised her research for skillfully illuminating the dramatic shift over the last centuries in the understanding of supposedly universal concepts.

The two other winners in this category are Professor Simon Schaffer of the University of Cambridge for his work on material practices used in the history of empirical science and mathematics, and Keller of MIT, for her pioneering work in the field of gender and science “that has revolutionized our view of the history of science.”

Keller’s’ current work focuses on the history and philosophy of modern biology, gender and science. The prize committee cited her insights on the relationship between feminism and science, and for her work that shows how the economics of gender has shaped thinking about genetics and ecology, and for illuminating the historic role of language in science, particularly in genetics and molecular biology.

Professor Mary-Claire King
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In the Present category, Professor Jonathan Glover of Kings College in Britain won for his contributions to the field of bioethics and for his research on human nature and psychiatric issues. The other winners in this category are Professor Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania, an oncologist and bioethicist, and philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock, for her investigations of the practical ethical aspects of biology and medicine.

The winners in the Future category are King of the University of Washington, for being a leader in the field of medical ethics and for her significant contributions to the study of the molecular basis of different types of cancer; Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University for his contributions to the understanding of the genetics and genomics of cancer; and Professor Carlo Croce of Ohio State University for his pioneering work in the discovery of the genes responsible for different types of leukemia and lymphoma that has helped pave the way for new targeted cancer therapies.

The prize was founded by businessman and philanthropist Dan David, who died in 2011. One-tenth of the prize money is given to 20 young post-graduate researchers. This year’s winners were announced by Professor Joseph Klafter, chair of the Dan David Prize Board, and former Tel Aviv University President Itamar Rabinovich, chair of the Dan David Foundation.