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What is the Kyoto Prize?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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The Kyoto Prize is a yearly, international prize awarded in three categories: Advanced Technology, Basic Science, and Arts and Philosophy. Kazuo Inamori, a very successful Japanese businessman, who owes his fortune to a huge company manufacturing ceramics, developed the Kyoto Prize. On the 25th anniversary of the start of his Kyocera Company, in 1984, Kazuo Inamori established the Kyoto Prize. The first prizes were awarded the following year in 1985.

Kazuo Inamori expressed his hopes that the world would continue to progress through scientific innovation and spiritual pursuit in his statements regarding the philosophy behind the Kyoto Prize. In this way the Kyoto prize differs slightly from the Nobel Prize. Especially its category of Arts and Philosophy, which tends to be awarded to musicians, filmmakers, or philosophers.

There is one winner in each category yearly. Each winner of the Kyoto Prize receives a diploma, a gold watch, and 50 million yen, approximately 420,000 US dollars (USD). Each category has four fields and the nominating members of the Kyoto Prize foundation decide which field to select for consideration each year.

For Advanced Technology, fields are Electronics, Biotechnology and Medical Technology, Materials Science and Engineering, and Information Science. For Basic Science the fields are Biological Science, Mathematics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Life Sciences. In the Arts and Philosophy category the fields are Music, Arts, Theater and Cinema, and Thought and Ethics.

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The Kyoto Prize Foundation invites distinguished members of each field to make nominations. These are then considered by three committees, which help to ensure that no partiality will be reflected in the awards. The Kyoto Prize Executive Committee makes the final recommendations to the Board of Directors, who vote on the yearly prizewinners.

The award must be given to an individual and not a corporation, unlike the Nobel Prize. It can be shared if there is a split vote. However this is uncommon.

Past winners include Akira Kurosawa for his groundbreaking work in film, Jane Goodall for her tireless study of and advocacy for chimpanzees, and Noam Chomsky for his work in linguistics. Winners have come from primarily the US, Europe and Japan and some feel that certain other continents are not sufficiently represented. As yet, no one from Australia, South America or Africa has won a Kyoto Prize.

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