Four academics working with U.S.institutions were awarded the million-dollar Shaw Prize at a ceremony in Hong Kong Tuesday, for their contributions to life science and medicine, astronomy and mathematical sciences.
The prize, currently comprising three categories and known as the Nobel Prize of the East, was established in 2002 by Sir Run Run Shaw, the Hong Kong billionaire and philanthropist known for his movie kingdom and donations to universities.
Peter Goldreich, 68, a professor at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, won the astronomy prize for "his lifetime achievements in theoretical astrophysics and planetary sciences", which the judging committee said was of "staggering variety, depth and breadth ....and set the gold standard for the field".
The life science and medicine prize went to Robert Lefkowitz, 64, a professor of biochemistry at Duke University and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in honor of " his relentless elucidation of the major receptor system that mediates the response of cells and organs to drugs and hormones."
The judges said Lefkowitz's efforts now permitted companies to search for even effective drugs that target a wide variety of G-protein coupled receptors, thereby giving potential solutions to a wide assortment of diseases.
The mathematics prize was shared between 71-year-old Robert Langlands, a professor at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, and Richard Taylor, a 45-year-old professor at Harvard University, for their initiating and developing "a grand unifying vision of mathematics that connects prime numbers with symmetry."
Langlands and Taylor each got half a million dollars, a medal and a certificate.
Lefkowitz said the Shaw Prize has been of increasing influence since it was first awarded to academics in 2004, not only because of its size -- the Nobel Prize was 10 million Sweden crowns (1.4 million U.S. dollars) for each category last year -- but because its past laureates were recognized for their outstanding achievements.
The newly-crowned laureate said he was "awestruck" by the list of past winners, which included Shiing-shen Chern, Richard Doll, P.James E. Peebles, Andrew John Wiles, David Mumford, among others.
The ceremony Tuesday was attended by chairman of the board of adjudicators and Nobel Prize winner Chen-Ning Yang, Hong Kong acting Chief Executive Henry Tang and the prize founder, Sir Run Run Shaw, who expects his 100th birthday this year.