About the Dan David Prize


Laureates 2003

PAST - Paleoanthropology :

    Professor MICHEL BRUNET
Directeur UMR CNRS 6046
Laboratoire de Geobiologie,
Biochronologie et Paleontologie Humaine
Faculte des Sciences Fondamentales et Appliquees
Universite de Poitiers, France

Michel Brunet is Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Poiters in south-western France, and has been working in Chad for more than a decade. In 2002 he published in Nature, an almost complete cranium of the oldest human ancestor: Sahelanthropus tchadensis (nicknamed Toumai) discovered in Chad. In 1995 he described another new Chadian hominid species, Australopithecus bahrelghazali, dated around 3.5 Ma.

In Chad, he initiated and is currently working as Head of, the the international transdisciplinary team: M.P.F.T.(Mission Paleoanthropologique Franco-Tchadienne) a scientific collaboration between the University of Poitiers, N'Djamena and CNAR (N'Djamena).

Until 1995, pre-humans had only been traced in southern and eastern Africa. This new geographical and stratigraphical distribution pattern for early hominids emphasizes that, as opposed to previous conceptions, the first stages of our history were pan-African, dating back at least 6 million years. This implies an earlier chimpanzee-human divergence (at least seven million years ago) than previously thought.

Professor Brunet is a gifted scholar and a superb field worker, working in the unforgiving hardness of the hot, dusty, and wind-swept terrain, initially in southern Asia and subsequently, for over two decades, in western and north central Africa.

His efforts at encouraging education, developing cooperation, and the organization and pursuance of such prolonged and intensive multidisciplinary field investigation have resulted in wholly new and extensive documentation of geological history and attendant extensive fossil recording of sahelian Africa during the upper Tertiary.

These revelations and their magnitude are of major significance for elucidation of the African natural world surrounding the initial appearance and earliest evolution of humankind, whose oldest know representatives are found there. These remarkable discoveries cast human origins in a very new perspective. They have, and will, profoundly impact the pursuit of human evolutionary studies for decades to come.

Professor Brunet was born in 1940 in Vienne, France, and received a Bachelor's degree in Life Science, Licence es Sciences de Doctorat, and Ph.D. in Paleontology from the University of Paris. He obtained his D.Sc. in Life Science from the University of Poitiers.

PRESENT - Print & Electronic Media:

James Nachtwey is no ordinary photojournalist. He has dedicated his life to documenting the apocalyptic events of our time: war, famine, man's inhumanity to man, the plight of the disenfranchised all over the world. With eye of an artist and the instincts of a journalist, he creates images that are both appalling and profound. His photographs may not be easy to look at but they are impossible to ignore.

This is Nachtwey's goal: to burden viewers with such an uncomfortable awareness that it will force them to seek justice and change. He says, "I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated." His photographs on AIDS in Africa were published in Time magazine and were shown in the U.S. Congress; they helped lead to legislation requiring drug companies to provide cheaper generic drugs to fight the disease.

James Nachtwey's work is astonishing in its diversity, its beauty and in the electrical charge of Nachtwey's commitment to making incredible images even in the face of tremendous personal danger. He is an inspiration not only to photojournalists but to people everywhere.

James Nachtwey grew up in Massachusetts and graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College, where he studied art history and political science. Images fro the Vietnam war and the American Civil Rights movement had a powerful effect on him and were instrumental in his decision to become a photographer.

Nachtwey has devoted himself to documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues. He has worked on extensive photographic essays in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Russia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Romania, Brazil and the United States.

James Nachtwey has been a contract photographer with Time magazine since 1984. He has received numerous honors and awards. James Nachtwey is a fellow of the Royal Photographic society and has an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art.


Fredereck Wiseman is widely acclaimed as the most important person ever to lift a camera for documentary filmmaking. His first film, 1967's Titicut Follies, remade the whole genre of nonfiction film, introducing path-breaking innovations such as the lack of a narrator, a spare and honest cinematography and a narrative line that resembled a Hollywood film in its dramatic development, even though the story was entirely true. He has influenced thousands of film directors and producers.

If the artist's gift for storytelling is what brings viewers into his films and keeps them there, what devastates them is the fact that what they are watching is true. In 32 nonfiction films, Wiseman has tackled subjects such as education for the disabled, the view of America from abroad, and most notable, the criminal justice system. Two of his films, High School and Welfare, have been designated National Treasures by the U.S. Library of Congress.

In all of his work, Wiseman makes us reckon with our emotions, the cost to society of marginalizing those who cannot speak for themselves.

Fredereck Wiseman received his B.A. from Williams College and his LL.B. from Yale Law School. He holds many honorary doctorates and fellowships, among them from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Wiseman has received numerous awards, including the following: the Mannheim International Film Week, the Emy Award, the USA Film Festival, the Peabody Award, The Berlin International Film Festival, and the HOT DOCS award.

FUTURE - Cosmology & Astronomy

    Professor JOHN BAHCALL

John Bahcall has made fundamental and lasting contributions to an astonishing number of different areas of modern astrophysics, ranging from the interpretation of quasar absorption lines to the first detection of a neutron star companion. This work culminates in his contributions to neutrino astronomy and to the solar neutrino problem. The solar neutrino observations revealed conclusively that the sun emits neutrinos in amazing agreement with theoretical prediction.

Neutrino astrophysics is part of a new field of research that nowadays is called "Particle Astrophysics". Bahcall contributed crucially towards the development of this field, which holds great promise for the future, particularly for cosmology. For example, the mysterious non-baryonic "dark matter", which forms some ninety per cent of the gravitating matter in the universe and plays an essential role in the formation of the observed structures in the universe (galaxies, clusters and super-clusters of galaxies) is expected to be composed of new types of elementary particles, whose nature is still to be discovered.

John Bahcall is Richard Black Professor of Natural Sciences at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J., U.S.A., and has received Honorary Doctorates of Science from Ohio State University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame and the Hebrew University. Among the numerous awards he has received, are the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the Russell Prize of the American Astronomical Society, Award Medal of the University of Helsinki, the Dannie Heineman Prize of the American Institute of Physics, the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, and the Warner Prize American Astronomical Society.

Professor Bahcall has held many positions of Chair, among them with the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Committee of the International Astronomical Union and the National Underground Science Laboratory Committee.