Innovation at the heart
of Kyoto Prize selections
The man who made laptops and cell phones possible and expanded the universe of the Internet and the biologist who challenged Darwin’s theory of natural selection with his explanation of “genetic variation” have been selected as this year’s Kyoto Prize laureates.
Along with jazz composer and musician Cecil Taylor, 84, Dr. Robert Heath Dennard, 80, and Dr. Masatoshi Nei, 82, respectively, will be honored in November during a special ceremony in Kyoto, Japan, and will be in San Diego March 11 of next year for the annual three-day symposium to discuss their work. The lectures, hosted by UCSD, SDSU and USD, are free and open to the public. In addition, the Kyoto honorees will be feted at a gala dinner ceremony, which kicks off the three-day event.
This is only the second time in the 29-year history of the prize that all three awards – Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences and Arts and Philosophy -- are being given to Americans. Traditionally, recipients have collectively hailed from the United States, Europe and Asia, usually Japan, since the prize was created by Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera International, whose U.S. headquarters is based in San Diego. The San Diego connection was the impetus for the annual symposium and gala, beginning in 2002.
The names of this year’s prize winners were announced Friday, March 21, by the Inamori Foundation and the San Diego Kyoto Prize Symposium Committee during a reception at the law firm of Morrison Foerster in San Diego.
According to the Inamori Foundation, Dennard’s work helped lead to the development of personal computers, while Nei, with is emphasis on genetic variation, helped determine that Asians and Europeans diverged from Africans roughly 115,000 years ago. Taylor’s work has been cited for its virtuosity that helped create a new dimension for jazz music often called “free jazz.” All three men will receive a diploma, a 20-karat gold medal, and a cash gift of at least $525,000.
Dennard is credited with inventing the basic structure of Dynamic Random Access Memory, or DRAM, which broadened the capabilities of all IT devices, including laptop computers, by increasing the capacity of digital information storage. While working for IBM, he and his colleagues were credited with developing the guidelines that helped to miniaturize the metal oxide semiconductor, which plays a lead role in IC or integrated circuit memory systems, thereby advancing the scope and capabilities of computers and related technology.
Nei, a professor at Penn State University, and his students studied the evolutionary patterns of a large number of multi-gene families and showed that they generally evolve following the model of a birth-and-death process, which is very fast and caused more by random events and mutation. He has theorized that rather than the cornerstone of evolution, natural selection is merely a force eliminating less fit genotypes. He also showed that the genetic variation between Europeans, Asians, and Africans is only about 11 percent of the total genetic variation of the human population and then estimated that Europeans and Asians diverged about 55,000 years ago and these two populations from Africans about 115,000 years ago, thereby giving rise to the “Out of Africa” theory of human origin.
Taylor’s style of musicianship and composing has been influenced by his unique method of playing that includes broad percussive key strokes using his fists and palms rather than fingers. The result is always different and a unique form of tone clusters radically different even from most experimental jazz. During his career as performer and composer, he has collaborated with artists from a variety of fields, including dancer such as Mikhail Baryshnikov.