The Balzan Prizewinners Interdisciplinary Forum in Berne (November 2009)

The 2009 Balzan Prizewinners’ Interdisciplinary Forum was held on Thursday 19 November in the Plenary Hall of the Swiss National Science Foundation in Berne. It was organized by the Swiss Academies of Sciences and the International Balzan Foundation "Prize".

After opening speeches by the President of the Swiss National Science Foundation, Dieter Imboden, and by the Chairman of the Balzan General Prize Committee, Salvatore Veca, the winners of the 2009 Balzan Prize, were presented by members of the General Prize Committee. The prizewinners then gave brief summaries of their careers and the work that won them the Prize: Terence Cave (UK, St John's College, Oxford) for Literature since 1500, Michael Grätzel (Switzerland-Germany, EPFL Lausanne) for the Science of New Materials, Brenda Milner (Canada-UK, McGill University, Montreal) for Cognitive Neurosciences and Paolo Rossi Monti (Italy, University of Florence) for the History of Science.

The talks by Brenda Milner, Terence Cave, Michael Grätzel and Paolo Rossi Monti were each followed by comments and questions by Swiss Academicians: Dominique de Quervain (Director, Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Basel), Frédéric Tinguely (Director, Department of French Language and Modern Literature, University of Geneva), Frank Nüesch (Head, Department of Functional Polymers, Federal Laboratory for Materials Testing and Research) and Raphael Scholl (Institute of Philosophy, University of Berne).

To conclude, the President of the Swiss  Academies of Arts and Sciences, Peter Suter, invited members of the audience to ask the prizewinners questions on three basic themes: How do their works encourage dialogue between the humanities and the natural sciences? How might their findings influence the results obtained in other disciplines? What implications do these findings have for the future development of the humanities and the sciences? The ensuing debate brought out the interdisciplinary nature of the Forum, with a lively exchange of questions, answers and comments.
 

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