Kyoto Prize 2009: Composer Pierre Boulez honoured for his life’s work

The prize-winners have been selected

19 June 2009

Kyoto/Neuss – The Kyoto Prize, alongside the Nobel Prize one of the world’s highest honours for the lifetime work of outstanding personalities in culture and science, is being awarded this year to the composer Pierre Boulez, the evolutionary biologists Dr Peter Raymond Grant und Dr Barbara Rosemary Grant as well as to Dr Isamu Akasaki, a scientist researching in the field of electronics. Each worth 50 million yen (some €370,000/ £320,000), the honours are awarded every year by the Inamori Foundation, which was initiated in 1984 by Dr Kazuo Inamori, founder of the Japanese technology corporation Kyocera.

With its Kyoto Prize, the Inamori Foundation pays tribute to the lifetime’s work of personalities who have excelled in their fields with outstanding achievements. The French composer Pierre Boulez is receiving the award in the category of Art and Philosophy for his contribution to contemporary music. Award-winners in the category of Basic Sciences are the English husband-and-wife team of biologists Dr Peter Raymond Grant and Dr Barbara Rosemary Grant. Both are being honoured for their evolutionary research. In the category of Advanced Technology, the Inamori Foundation is honouring the Japanese scientist Dr Isamu Akasaki for his successful achievements in the field of electronics research. The presentation ceremony is taking place in Kyoto on 10 November. The committee justifies its selection of prize-winners as follows:

Pierre Boulez (*1925 Montbrison, France)

Pierre Boulez, 2009 Kyoto prize-winner in the category of Art & Philosophy

Pierre Boulez, French composer, conductor and author, is among the most important musical personalities of our time. He has had a major influence on western music following the Second World War. As a man of wide-ranging talent and a supreme level of creativity he has shaped the contemporary music scene up until the present day. Initially his interest focused on serial music – he has made a decisive contribution to theoretical and practical developments in this field. Even today, Pierre Boulez still occupies the conductor’s rostrum in front of leading orchestras worldwide. Among these have been the New York Philharmonic, which he conducted as a successor to Leonard Bernstein. Pierre Boulez holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Leeds, Basle, Oxford, Cambridge, Southern California Los Angeles, Brussels and Frankfurt am Main. Pierre Boulez is deserving of the utmost respect for his life’s work.

Dr Peter Raymond Grant (*1936 in London, England) , Dr Barbara Rosemary Grant (*1936 in Arnside, England)

Dr Peter Raymond Grant, 2009 Kyoto prize-winner in the category of Basic Sciences
Dr Barbara Rosemary Grant, 2009 Kyoto prize-winner in the category of Basic Sciences
Through their field study of Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands over a period of more than 35 years, the Grants have shown that the morphology and behaviour of organisms through natural selection can change rapidly due to ecological fluctuations. Their most impressive achievement is a detailed study of how the size and shape of the beak in finches (genus Geospiza) have evolved in a short time through natural selection. In addition, the Grants’ results have helped to promote a precise understanding of evolutionary phenomena among the general public. Their work also indicates the importance of evolutionary biology in dealings with the continuing changes to the environment. The Grants’ contributions to evolutionary biology are deserving of the utmost respect.

Dr Isamu Akasaki (*1929 in Kagoshima, Japan)

Dr. Isamu Akasaki, 2009 Kyoto prize-winner in the category of Advanced Technology
For many years, Dr Isamu Akasaki was intensively engaged in research into the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN), with the aim of producing blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs). His work reached a peak in 1989 when he was the first to implement a p-n transition in gallium nitride, an achievement which had until that time been regarded as impossible. This accomplishment by Akasaki was the first serious step taken towards the commercialization of blue LEDs, which were the only primary colour still missing in this range. They then made it possible to display the entire spectrum of colours. Thanks to their outstanding efficiency and long life, LEDs are employed in many fields, such as in screens and for white light. They were later followed by blue laser diodes, which, among other applications, have provided the basis for developing the Blu-ray Disk™. Dr. Isamu Akasaki is deserving of the utmost respect for his research.
This year’s Kyoto Prize is the 25th time that personalities who have made a particularly great contribution to the further development of the arts and sciences are being honoured. Among those who have received the prize in past years are the German choreographer Pina Bausch, the philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, the musician and conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the artists Maurice Béjart and Roy Lichtenstein as well as the primatologist Jane Goodall.
Photos: © Inamori Foundation 2009Copies may be made at no charge, please provide specimen copies to Kyocera Fineceramics GmbH