THE BLAISE PASCAL MEDALS 2014Lectures and Pictures will be published very soon
Blaise Pascal Medal in Materials Science
Professor Sir John Thomas, United Kingdom
In recognition for his creative insights into new solid catalysts, his understanding of the structure and activity of existing catalysts through in-situ techniques, and for disseminating his vast knowledge of heterogeneous catalysis.
By its very nature science is a quest for truth; and universities and academies, since their
emergence in the ancient world and to this day, are institutions where the quest for all kinds of truth is pursued. Indeed,
such establishments are moral places; and, from time immemorial, the following views of eminent natural philosophers would be
accepted as axiomatic.
Rabelais (1572), Sir Humphry Davy (1812), Max Perutz (1962) underlined the essential link between science and conscience.
This talk will survey several different fields of modern science in the light of their statements and, in particular, focus on several examples of recent unethical behaviour among physical, biological and medical scientist. In addition the talk will touch upon such influences as the pressure to publish and the impact of patents.
Blaise Pascal Medal in Physics
Professor Daniel Loss, Switzerland
In recognition of pioneering contributions to theoretical condensed matter physics, in particular work on spin-dependent and phase-coherent phenomena (‘mesoscopics’) in semiconducting nanostructures and molecular magnets, and application to quantum information processing.
The concept of Quantum Computing is based on the fundamental laws of Quantum Physics and makes crucial use of entanglement first discovered by E. Schrödinger in 1935. Soon thereafter, this entanglement was criticized by A. Einstein as giving rise to ‘spooky action at a distance’ and thus first believed to be ‘unphysical’. However, by now it is a universally accepted property of Nature that promises to execute operations ‘in parallel’ and essentially without limits, thereby resulting in an exponential speed-up of information processing which is expected to revolutionize the information society. However, the challenges for physics and engineering are formidable and there is now an intense race in the best laboratories worldwide to build such a quantum computer. I will present the basic concepts of quantum computing and give an overview of one of the most promising approaches proposed in 1998 for an integrated quantum chip which is based on spin qubits in semiconducting nanostructures.
Blaise Pascal Medal in Social Sciences and Humanities
Professor Eberhard Knobloch, Germany
In recognition of his outstanding scholarship and pioneering work in the history and philosophy of classical mathematics, mechanics, and other branches of science, and of his personal engagement in favour of the development of the history of science.
There is fascinating story of the way European mathematicians dealt with points indivisibles, and infinitely small quantities. According to Aristotle’s definition points and indivisibles are non-quantities. Archimedes used them in his „Approach related to mechanical theorems“. Kepler referred to Archimedes when he used such non-quantities without knowing this writing of him. His identification of circles with polygons having infinitely many sides and calculation of the volume of an ideal apple are especially interesting but provoked Guldin’s criticism. Galileo carefully distinguished between quanta and non quanta thus applying Cusanian notions. Leibniz recognized that indivisibles have to be defined as infinitely small quantities, that is, as quantities being smaller than any given quantity. He generalized the ideas of his predecessors and justified his principle of linearization thus putting integration theory on a rigourous basis.
Blaise Pascal Medal in Chemistry
Professor Hubert Schmidbaur, Germany
In recognition of his contributions to the fundamentals of many areas of modern inorganic chemistry. In his collection of more than 850 publications on the chemistry of main group and noble metals he has introduced several innovative concepts including in particular new visions in the chemistry of gold and silver. Based on his original work, metallophilic interactions between formally closed-shell metal centers are now ranked among the prominent weak forces determining the organization of molecules and their supramolecular chemistry.
For millennia, gold has been used by mankind almost exclusively for jewelry and coinage, and as a lasting safekeeping of monetary wealth. For a long time, gold chemistry was largely the art of recovering gold from ores, its purification and its alloying to produce coins and objects of art and cult. Owing to its high value, gold was also one of the earliest examples of careful recycling of an element. The sites of gold mining - amalgamation and cyanide leaching - were also relying on the most dangerous processes for the environment. - The last quarter of a century has witnessed an enormous upswing in gold chemistry and has placed gold among the most promising elements regarding its use in heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis, nanotechnology, photophysics, pharmacy, and medicine. The chemistry of gold is strongly determined by relativistic effects, and recent results of theoretical studies have led to a deeper understanding of the unique position of gold among the elements.
Blaise Pascal Medal in Earth and Environmental Sciences
Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, France
In recognition for his outstanding studies on the ocean acidification due to the increase of atmospheric CO2 during the Anthropocene.
Anthropogenic ocean acidification and global warming share the same primary cause which is the increase of atmospheric CO2. Ocean acidification has emerged over the last two decades as one of the threats to marine organisms and ecosystems. I will first review the current knowledge based on recent meta-analyses, reviews, and assessments. The effects on the past, present and future carbonate chemistry are known with a high degree of certainty. Most biological and ecological effects are much less certain although there is little doubt that calcification, primary production and nitrogen fixation, and biodiversity will be altered but with an unknown magnitude. These changes will in turn generate changes in the biogeochemical cycles, society and the economy. Whether these changes will be significant or not is also unknown. I will also highlight key unknowns and research gaps.