The World Cultural Council (WCC) is pleased to announce the names of the 2024 Awards

The prize is granted in recognition of the numerous breakthroughs in evolutionary genetics Prof. Willerslev’s has made during his highly fruitful career. The award recognizes his pioneering contributions in establishing the field of Environmental DNA and the sequencing of ancient DNA to track the origins and interactions of human population groups.
The World Cultural Council jury highlighted Willerslev’s openness with his research results, which he shares with broad segments of society.
The World Cultural Council jury highlighted Willerslev’s openness with his research results, which he shares with broad segments of society.

SCIENCE

Professor Eske Willerslev, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Copenhagen and Prince Philip Professor at the University of Cambridge, has been selected as the winner of the Albert Einstein World Award of Science 2024.

The prize is granted in recognition of the numerous breakthroughs in evolutionary genetics Prof. Willerslev’s has made during his highly fruitful career. The award recognizes his pioneering contributions in establishing the field of Environmental DNA and the sequencing of ancient DNA to track the origins and interactions of human population groups.

During his doctoral studies, Prof. Willerslev published his research demonstrating how modern and ancient DNA from birds, mammals and diverse plants can be directly obtained from environmental samples. His work has allowed for highly detailed reconstruction of ancient marine and land ecosystems from microbes to plants and vertebrates. He recently published in Nature the reconstruction of a 2-million-year-old ecosystem from Greenland.

The sequencing of ancient human genomes was thought impossible until Prof. Willerslev found a way to do this. His numerous studies on the subject have helped rewrite human history from the origins of Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians through to the peopling of Europe and Asia. One byproduct of this is the ability to follow the spread of disease risk and comprehend how it differs among peoples. His group’s discovery that pathogen DNA can be obtained from ancient teeth has changed our understanding of the evolution and spread of diseases such as the plague, hepatitis B and smallpox.

The World Cultural Council jury highlighted Willerslev’s openness with his research results, which he shares with broad segments of society. He is known to be an active and engaging speaker, who promotes science to the public through debate, documentaries, radio, TV, and magazine interviews. He has written various books on science for lay readers of all ages, which are best-sellers in Denmark and will soon be available in English. He has also promoted the next generation of scientists within and outside his research group, mentoring award-winning researchers and launching new Centres of Excellence. The town of Horsholm (Denmark) has a bronze statue of him in recognition of his work promoting education and research.

His discoveries have borne sway on scientists’ approach to Indigenous communities, and even the US Repatriation Law. Respecting Indigenous communities, he has worked alongside Indigenous Peoples and his findings have resulted in the repatriation of various human remains to their rightful descendants including the highly debated Kennewick Man skeleton (The Ancient One) and The Spirit Cave Man mummy. Willerslev is an adopted member of the Crow (Apsáalooke) federally recognized tribe of Montana.

Professor Willerslev has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates and accolades, including Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences, and Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. His research is published in the most prestigious journals and includes more than 60 publications in Nature and Science. He is one of the Web of Science’s most cited researchers, in the top 1% of his field.

To sum up, Prof. Willerslev has produced a rich, diverse catalogue of prehistoric human genetics. His work has broad scientific impact, forcing us to rethink the origins and evolution of human groups, languages, and behaviour, while causing ripples in fields as diverse as medicine, ecology, archaeology, and climate science.

Professor Eske Willerslev’s dedication to education is outstanding, not only as an ambassador for modern science but also as an international role model to younger scientists, exhorting them to pursue science with integrity and for practical societal impact. He is considered a natural, energizing, and motivating leader.

The Albert Einstein World Award of Science was created as a means of recognition for scientists who have accomplished scientific and technological achievements which have brought progress to science and benefit to humankind. In addition to considering the winners’ breakthrough achievements, the jury also consider the service which each has made to humankind and their qualities as a role model who inspires future generations to contribute to a better world.

The prize is given annually and consists of a diploma, a commemorative medal and an Award Cheque.

ARTS

The World Cultural Council (WCC) is pleased to announce that Cónal Creedon has been awarded the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts 2024.

Cónal Creedon is an award-winning novelist, short-story writer, playwright, documentary film maker, essayist, and collaborative artist. His creative practice has been described as an exploration of ‘the spaghetti bowl of streets’ in downtown Cork city, Ireland – where his family has lived and traded for over a hundred years. His detailed investigation of such a tight-knit neighbourhood reveals insights into the universal nature of the human condition and constitutes a significant contribution to the artistic legacy of creative expression.

The WCC Jury members were also impressed by the diversity of Cónal’s artistic practice, reaching back over thirty years and across various media including: publication, theatre, film, radio, music, live performance, and collaboration with other artists. When examined in its entirety, his diverse output becomes a single cohesive body of work that resonates far beyond the inner-city streets of his native Cork. As a guest speaker at universities and literary festivals, Cónal continues to tour his work to USA, China and Europe. With extracts of his work translated into Bulgarian, German, Italian and Chinese, Cónal’s international appeal is not restricted to English-speaking communities. The global appeal of Cónal’s work becomes self-evident in the apparent ease and affability of his interaction with diverse international audiences. But above all, it is the quality of his writing that shines through.

In the words of reviewer Malachy McCourt: “Good writing knows no nationality ..., [this] is excellent writing, very personal, very humorous. They say if Dublin was burnt down, it could be rebuilt again by reading the work of James Joyce – well the very same could be said about Creedon’s work – Cork city could be built from his words.”

Cónal’s creative output has received international recognition, including the Eric Hoffer Award USA 2020 and the IP Gold Award USA 2023. His stage plays have been produced in the UK, Shanghai and New York to high critical acclaim and have received several awards at the Irish Theatre Awards New York. His latest collection of short stories was awarded One City One Book and is on record as the most borrowed adult fiction book from the library service in 2022. His film documentaries have had public screenings in New York and World Expo Shanghai 2010. During the Covid pandemic Cónal remained busy, streaming online over 30 literary podcasts, films, stage plays, lectures, readings, interviews as well as collaborations with universities in India.
In addition, Cónal has written more than 60 hours of original radio drama, broadcast by RTE, BBC, CBC, and ABC.

In his home city of Cork, Ireland, Cónal’s contribution to the arts continues to be recognized. In 2016 he was presented as Writer-in-Residence at University College Cork (UCC) and was subsequently inducted as adjunct Professor of Creative Writing to the School of English and Digital Humanities (UCC). Nominated Person of the Year in 2001 and 2018, Cónal was appointed Cultural Ambassador for Cork City in 2020 and awarded Cork City Lord Mayor’s Cultural Award.

The members of the WCC Jury are happy to conclude that whether as a cultural or goodwill ambassador, a keynote speaker or simply a guest, Cónal Creedon never fails to bring humour and warmth with his insightful and entertaining words. As one nominator remarked, “Cónal brings beauty and truth wherever he chooses to be.”

The Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts is an acknowledgment to those who lift our existence to a higher level by the beauty or inspiration of their creative talent. In addition to considering the winners’ remarkable work, the jury also takes into account the service which each has made to humankind and their qualities as a role model who inspires future generations to contribute to a better world.

The prize is given every two years and consists of a diploma, a commemorative medal and an Award Cheque.


SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS 2024

During this occasion, the WCC will grant special acknowledgments to distinguished young Canadian scholars. The four promising young research leaders are from McGill University: Alicia Boatswain-Kyte’s work tackles the challenges faced by Black children and their communities in Canada and abroad. Jin Guo, who co-leads the Software Technology Lab, enables software stakeholders with diverse backgrounds to access crucial knowledge in the design of complex systems. Kristy Ironside is internationally recognized as the top economic historian on the political and social history of 20th-century Russia and the USSR. Nagissa Mahmoudi’s groundbreaking research yields invaluable insights into how microorganisms regulate matter and energy, influencing the Earth’s carbon cycle. They will be recognised during the Award Ceremony and will receive a commemorative Diploma for their exemplary contributions at an early stage of their careers.

This year the World Cultural Council will celebrate its 39th Award Ceremony hosted by McGill University at its historic downtown campus in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Wednesday, October 23, 2024. The Awards will be given by the President of the WCC, Sir Fraser Stoddart, President and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University, Professor Deep Saini and members of the WCC Board of Directors. As part of the programme, both winners will give the 2024 Beatty Lectures at the University on Tuesday, October 22.

Since 1984 the WCC has held a yearly Award Ceremony, granting prizes to outstanding scientists, educators and artists whose remarkable work in the fields of knowledge, learning and research has contributed positively to the cultural enrichment of humankind.

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