BERLIN--Last week, the German-American Academic Council (GAAC) honored Gordon A. Craig, an American historian, and Bert Hoelldobler, a German zoologist, with the newly created Benjamin Franklin-Wilhelm v. Humboldt Prize.
The prize is awarded annually to two individuals--one German, one American--for "distinguished contributions to science or science policy" symbolizing the "spirit of German-American friendship and cooperation." It is associated with an amount of 100,000 DM (US $52,000) and may be awarded without further restrictions to scholars and scientists from all disciplines.
Hoelldobler is well known for his groundbreaking research on sociobiology, especially for his field research on ants. His book, The Ants, won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction writing in 1991 and has been translated into 11 languages. After research stints at the Universities of Wuerzburg and Frankfurt, Hoelldobler served as a professor at Harvard University from 1973 to 1990 before returning to Wuerzburg, Germany, in 1988.
Craig, originally from Glasgow, graduated from Princeton with a degree in history and has held faculty positions at Princeton, Yale, and Stanford. He has also taught at the Free University in Berlin. Among numerous other awards, Craig received the Goethe medal in 1987 and the Historiker-Preis in 1982 for his works on European history, which focused on German statecraft and contemporary diplomatic problems. In his encomium, the former German science minister Heinz Riesenhuber said, "Craig's work helped to bridge the Atlantic."
In his address to the audience, Hoelldobler announced that the prize money will be used to support postgraduate studies at Harvard University and further field research in Arizona for his research group of about 40 young scientists. Postdoctoral researcher Walter Federle, for example, just financed 6 months in the research group of physicist Tom McMahan at Harvard University using funds from Hoelldobler's prize money account.
Hoelldobler also took the opportunity to point out that lessons from a bug's life suggest that "flat network structures" are much more efficient than "ancient hierarchical systems," which he says applies not only to industries and politics but also to academic communities.
The GAAC was founded in 1994 by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and U.S. President Bill Clinton with the purpose of establishing new forms of interaction between the German and American academic communities at all fields, especially among young scientists. To achieve this, the foundation runs several series of German-American symposia for junior investigators such as "Frontiers of Science" and "Current Problems of Molecular Medicine" held every June.