US astrophysicists Prof. Neil Gehrels and Prof. Shrinivas Kulkarni, and Polish astronomer and astrophysicist Prof. Andrzej Udalski, are the 2017 Dan David Prize laureates in the Future Time Dimension category for the field of astronomy.
Headquartered at Tel Aviv University, the international honors are handed out annually in three prizes worth $1 million each to outstanding figures whose work represents remarkable achievement in selected fields within the three time dimensions — past, present and future. This year’s fields are archaeology & natural sciences, literature and astronomy.
The prize committee chose to award Gehrels, who passed away on February 6, for his work in the field of gamma-ray astronomy and as the principal investigator of NASA’s Swift Gamma Ray Burst Mission, a robotic spacecraft observatory launched in 2004.
Kulkarni, a professor of astrophysics and planetary science at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, is being honored for his role as a leading figure in time-domain astrophysics across the electromagnetic spectrum.
And Udalski, the director of the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw, is being awarded for his role as a pioneer in the field of time-domain astronomy, exploring the variable sky in the Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies.
In the 2017 Present Time Dimension in the field of literature are A.B. Yehoshua, one of Israel’s leading fiction writers since his debut in the late 1950s; and Jamaica Kincaid, for being one of the most important and influential writers today.
And prize winners in the Past Time Dimension in the field of archaelogy & natural sciences, are Prof. David Reich, the world’s leading pioneer in analyzing ancient human DNA, and Prof. Svante Pääbo, the world’s leading pioneer in sequencing ancient human DNA and for being the first to extract DNA from Neanderthal fossil bones.
The Dan David Prize is named after the late Dan David, an international businessman and philanthropist whose aim was to reward those who have made a lasting impact on society and to help young students and entrepreneurs become the scholars and leaders of the future.
Previous Dan David Prize laureates include cellist Yo-Yo Ma (2006); Prof. Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus (2009); novelist Margaret Atwood (2010); filmmaker brothers Ethan and Joel Coen (2011); philosopher Leon Wieseltier (2013); and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (2015).
This year’s winners will be honored at the 2017 Dan David Prize Award Ceremony to be held at Tel Aviv University on May 21, 2017.