It was a Europe-US draw for the 2011 Shaw prizes, with scientists on both sides of the Atlantic sharing each of the three million-dollar awards.
The three annual prizes, in astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematics, are “dedicated to furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity’s spiritual civilization.” Established by centenarian media mogul Run Run Shaw (b. 1907), based in Hong Kong, and first awarded in 2004, the prizes are sometimes referred to as the Asian Nobel prizes. Like their Scandinavian brethren, the prizes honour only living scientists.
The astronomy prize was shared by Enrico Costa of the Institute of Space Astrophysics and Cosmic Physics in Rome and Gerald Fishman of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama for leading missions that determined the origins of gamma ray bursts, intensely bright releases of energy which produce the most powerful explosions “since the creation of the universe in the Big Bang”.
The Life Science and Medicine prize was awarded in equal shares to University of Strasbourg’s Jules Hoffmann, Yale University’s Ruslan Medzhitov, and Bruce Beutler of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California for figuring out the molecular mechanism behind innate immunity.
Demetrios Christodoulou of the ETH in Zurich and Richard Hamilton of Columbia University won the Mathematical Sciences prize for innovations in nonlinear partial differential equations in Lorentzian and Riemannian geometry and applying those to general relativity and topology.
The prizes will be awarded on 28 September, 2011.
Image: The Shaw prize medal, via Wikimedia Commons.