Exclusive pictures: the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences

August 28, 2015 • 12:00 pm

On January 15 I announced that the prestigious Crafoord Prize in Biosciences was awarded jointly to my Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin and Tomoka Ohta for their work on genetic variation in natural populations. (See the press release here.) I am pleased to present the photographs of the May 6 ceremony in Stockholm, in which the King of Sweden (who of course also hands out the Nobel Prizes), gave the pricey gold medal to Ohta and to Lewontin’s representative, my friend Andrew Berry (Lewontin couldn’t make it).  There’s also a handsome check: about $500,000. A few details about the Prize from Wikipedia:

According to the Academy, “these disciplines are chosen so as to complement those for which the Nobel Prizes are awarded”. Only one award is given each year, according to a rotating scheme – astronomy and mathematics; then geosciences; then biosciences. A Crafoord Prize is only awarded when a special committee decides that substantial progress in the field has been made.

The King gives the prize to Berry:

2015-05-06 Stockholm. Crafoordpriset 2015. H.M. Konungen delar ut priset till Ârets mottagare Richard Lewontin som representerades av Dr Andrew Berry. His Majesty the King presents the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences to laureate Richard Lewontin who was represented by Dr Andrew Berry. Foto: Markus Marcetic

Berry then  conveys the prize to Lewontin at Harvard, with Dick showing proper humility:


The King gives the prize to Ohta:

2015-05-06 Stockholm. Crafoordpriset 2015. H.M. Konungen delar ut priset till Ârets mottagare Tomoko Ohta. His Majesty the King presents the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences to laureate Tomoko Ohta. Foto: Markus Marcetic

Ohta and Berry; as Andrew said, “between us Ohta and I are a pretty good embodiment of human polymorphism”:


21 thoughts on “Exclusive pictures: the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences

  1. I’ve always wondered, when scientists from different countries work together on a project, is there often a language barrier? Is there a common language, such as English for aviation?

        1. lol, I didn’t know Dutch is known for spitting. I thought it was the ‘g’ sound (as in ‘Jorge’) that was most characteristic of Dutch language.

          1. The Dutch do make a bit of a joke about it when Dutch learners (particularly native Arabic speakers, IM!) spray the audience in their efforts to pronounce “Groningen” correctly. sometimes they do it with malice afore-thought (and stroopwaffels to take away the sting).

            1. A student from England once complained to me that it was so hard to learn Dutch, because as soon as a Dutchman notices you’re foreign, he switches to English. We’re just really happy to show off our (poor?) English skills.

              I believe the spraying bit has it origins in the pronunciation of the letter ‘s’. I can’t understand Arabic, but I’ve noticed Arabic uses the letter ‘g’ a lot too.

              I hope you didn’t have any negative experiences with my fellow countrymen, and if you did I apologize for them. Personally, I’m elated if someone wants to learn Dutch. It feels like some sort of recognition of our existence. New York State has a bigger population than the Netherlands.

              1. BTW, New York State has a bigger population of almost every nationality. We are kind of a population ink blotter.

              2. Dutch sounds like smoke signals set to music! That’s my explanation and I stick to it!
                My own knowledge of Dutch is very limited, mostly greetings and how to order a ‘kopje koffie’.
                During my trips to Amsterdam I always found the people friendly and open, perhaps because I travelled in spring, when people weren’t yet weary from hordes of tourists. 😉

              3. Chill out. I like Cloggies and the Land of Clog. Even if I do need to wear waterproofing around my glasses!

  2. Congratulations to the recipients!

    “The Crafoord Prize” — It’s inspiring to see you can have a prestigious award named after you even if you don’t know how to spell your own last name.

  3. What a pleasure it must be for these two, to receive such recognition after many years of work. Congratulations.

  4. I particularly like seeing Drs. Lewontin and Ohta receive the prize jointly. When I was in graduate school (about the same time Jerry was), they were often thought of as members of two warring factions – the selectionists and the neutralists. Fortunately, that nonsense is behind us and we can recognize their enduring contributions.

    1. Although Dick was a student of Dobzhansky’s, I think he has never been committed to either a neutral or a selective explanation of molecular polymorphism.

      In fact, in his famous 1966 paper with Jack Hubby, he gave several possible explanations for the presence of the polymorphism. One was neutrality. In fact, that explanation, which cited Crow and Kimura’s 1964 formula, was the first clear statement of the neutral mutation hypothesis, two years before Kimura’s 1968 Nature paper.

      1. Joe’s right here, I think. Dick’s 1974 book on genetic variation was characterized by one review as “not so much sitting on the fence as pirouetting on it.” The last chapter, about the congealed genome, does tout selection, but has been shown to be wrong. I don’t remember Dick as being strongly selectionist about standing genetic variation.

  5. the May 6 ceremony in Stockholm, in which the King of Sweden

    Memo to self : if ever collecting a gong (pretty unlikely), must remember to ask him if Minnie is still gettin’ what she is needin’? The ferruginous-aurriferous house and the adamantine cyclo-platinate horseless carriage?

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