Behind the Scenes: The Kyoto Prizes

David Braun in Tokyo
National Geographic News
January 17, 2003

Kazuo Inamori, founder of the Inamori foundation, talks with National Geographic News about scientific progress and the enrichment of human values. The Inamori Foundation bestows the annual Kyoto Prizes which are given in the categories of advanced technology, basic science, and arts and philosophy. Since 1984, Kyoto Prizes have been awarded to 60 people from 12 countries. Given not only for excelling in one's field of specialization, the award recognizes those who, in the course of their research, have made contributions to humanity and society.

How have this year's laureates embodied the principles of the Kyoto Prizes, which aim to combine scientific progress with the enrichment of human values?

The Kyoto Prizes are set up so that the laureates selected are not only people who have excelled in their fields of specialization, but also those who, in the course of their research, have made contributions to humanity and society. Once again, this year's laureates epitomize these two criteria.

Looking at the 2002 events as a whole, from the awards ceremony in Kyoto through the audience with the Emperor and Empress at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, please summarize the events and explain how they have added to the aura of the Kyoto Prizes.

The Kyoto Prize events began on November 9 with a welcoming dinner. The awards ceremony took place the next day, followed by workshops with the laureates and an audience with the Emperor and Empress. I believe that all three laureates were very pleased with the full program.

The laureates enjoyed wonderful fellowship and communication with the Emperor and Empress. As you know, the Emperor is a scientist in his own right, a biologist who is very much interested in the advancement of science. Breakthroughs in DNA research are of particular interest to the Emperor, so he and Dr. Hood had that in common, and shared a very enthusiastic conversation.

At the same time, all three of our laureates had the opportunity to express their views. The Empress, who is interested in education, spoke with the laureates and their spouses, especially with Mrs. Hood, and compared notes about educational assistance and problems in the United States and Japan.

All in all, I must say that this has been a very fruitful year for the Kyoto Prizes.

Two biologists who received Kyoto Prizes during the 1990s went on to receive Nobel Prizes this year. Do the Kyoto and Nobel prizes have the same objectives? Do they overlap or complement one another?

The two Nobel laureates to whom you refer received Kyoto Prizes in Advanced Technology, while they later received Nobel Prizes for their contributions to basic sciences. Originally, we established the Kyoto Prizes to complement the Nobel prizes. It was not our intention to compete with them.

I am an engineer who has worked in industrial settings. I thought it was important to recognize people who have made achievements in engineering. Therefore, we set up the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology as part of our trio of prizes, which also includes Basic Sciences and Arts and Philosophy.

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.