Harvard Biologist Wins Prestigious Science Award
A retired Harvard professor who this week won one of the world's most prestigious scientific awards says he will donate the prize money to scientific research--all $130,000 of it.
"The money is the least important part of the prize. The most important part for a scientist is recognition among one's peers," Ernst Mayr, Agassiz Professor of Zoology Emeritus, said yesterday.
Mayr, one of the leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th century, was named Tuesday as one of this year's three Balzan Prize winners.
The award is intended to reward research carried out in fields not covered by the Nobel Prizes. The other prize winners are University of Chicago sociologist Edward Shils and an Italian scholar in Oriental Studies, Francesio Gabreli. An awards ceremony is scheduled for February in Switzerland.
"It's a mixed feeling of humility and exuberance," Mayr said about winning the award. "It's the biggest prize in the field of biology in the world, and to win it is a very humbling experience."
Mayr was one of several scientists who in the 1930's developed the New Synthesis of evolutionary theory, under which modern genetics was incorporated into the classification of organisms.
"He helped put evolutionary theory and the many disciplines of evolutionary biology on a firmer footing," said Edward O. Wilson, Baird Professor of Science, leading a chorus of praise for Mayr from Harvard researchers yesterday.
Mayr has been developing the theories that won him recognition for 57 years, and has been at Harvard since 1953.
Even at age 79, he still gives an occasional lecture, and he notes, "I write books all the time."