UNESCO Prize in the Basic Sciences awarded in Paris

News, 16 November 2021

On 15 November, laureates of the Prize Yuri Oganessian and Vincenzo Balzani received gold medals with the portrait of D. I. Mendeleev and honorary diplomas in the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Moreover, each scientist will receive USD 250,000. The festive ceremony conducted by Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, took place within the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference. On the day of the Prize presentation, President of Russia V. V. Putin sent a congratulatory telegram to Yuri Oganessian.

The UNESCO-Russia Mendeleev International Prize in the Basic Sciences was awarded to Scientific Leader of the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions, RAS Academician Yuri Oganessian “to acknowledge his breakthrough discoveries extending the Periodic Table and for his promotion of the basic sciences for development at the global scale.”

“Something bigger than just the Prize awarding is taking place,” acknowledged Yuri Oganessian in his acceptance speech. “The great mission of UNESCO, which shows spiritual development of our society, is now complemented with one more very important component: we now pay very close attention to the basic sciences. It is an excellent sign. The UN declared 2019 the Year of the Periodic Table, and it was widely celebrated all over the world. Now UNESCO takes the next step, and people with merits in the basic sciences will regularly come to this stage.”

On the day of the festive prize presentation, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent Yuri Tsolakovich a congratulatory telegram, “Dear Yuri Tsolakovich! I cordially congratulate you on the award of the International UNESCO-Russian Mendeleev Prize. The multifaceted activity you devoted your life to fully corresponds to the high mission of the Prize. The Prize, which is established on the initiative of Russia and named after a great Russian scientists Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev, aims to promote the development of international humanitarian cooperation, popularisation of advanced scientific achievements. Of course, this prestigious award reflects a worthy evaluation of the results of your fundamental works, acknowledgement of outstanding, indisputable merits in the pedagogical, mentoring fields. I wish you further success, good health, and all the best. V. Putin.”

Chemistry Professor at the University of Bologna Vincenzo Balzani became the other laureate of the Prize, which was presented for the first time. A member of the jury of the Prize, JINR Director Grigory Trubnikov awarded the Prize to the Italian scientist. It is symbolic that the world-famous scientist, the Italian physicist who stood at the origins of non-organic and supramolecular photochemistry received the Prize on his birthday. According to Professor Balzani, science is the prerequisite for achieving the aims of sustainable development.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay gave a talk at the awarding ceremony. Head of the jury of the Prize, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Professor Jean-Pierre Sauvage sent a congratulatory video address to the laureates.

Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, Plenipotentiary Representatives of the Government of Russia in JINR Valery Falkov highlighted in his speech that the ceremony was taking place in 2021, which was declared the Year of Science and Technology in Russia. “Russia traditionally pays priority attention to the role of the basic sciences,” he said.”These are time-consuming studies that do not provide fast results. But they are the basis of the bulk of innovative developments and modern technologies. There is scientific courage, the creative spirit, research passion of a particular scientist, scientific team, or international collaboration behind each invention.”

RAS President Alexander Sergeev in his congratulatory speech to the laureates reminded Galileo’s famous words that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. He also noted that on that day all people present there could argue with Galileo and say that the book of nature is written in the language of chemistry. “If we imagine the contribution of two laureates, we would say that one of them – Professor Oganessian – significantly contributes to the creation of the alphabet, letters of this book. And Professor Vincenzo Balzani creates interesting and beautiful words out of these letters, in fact.”

JINR Director Grigory Trubnikov commented on the awarding of the Prize, “The name of Oganessian represents several countries and peoples. He is an outstanding son of Armenia and an outstanding son of Russia. He is also an outstanding scientist who had worked in France with the descendants of Frederic Joliot-Curie, at national laboratories of the USA. Scientists in Japan have been conducting experiments for the last 30 years with the direct participation of Yuri Oganessian. Physicists, mathematicians, chemists, biologists from all the countries know the surname Oganessian. They know it because the family name is imprinted in the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. Merits of Yuri Tsolakovich Oganessian are recognised by the world scientific community, and the heaviest, the most exotic element of the Mendeleev’s Table with the ordinal number 118 bears the proud name “oganesson”. It is named after a living person, our counterpart, our contemporary, the unique person the discoveries and deeds of whom and he himself are the heritage of the entire world, the entire humanity. This Prize does acknowledge the merits of the Russian scientific school, the contribution of Russian scientists – chemists, physicists, mathematicians, biologists – to world science. And, of course, today, the main character, the brightest participant of this beautiful scientific ball, together with Professor Vincenzo Balzani, is our contemporary RAS Academician Yuri Tsolakovich Oganessian. We cordially congratulate him, wish him good health, and to go further on his way to new heights of the Periodic Table!”