Mae-Wan Ho will receive the 2014 Prigogine Medal for her pioneering work in the physics of organisms and sustainable systems
Mae-Wan Ho, Director and co-founder of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), well recognized for her efforts to reclaim science for the public good and to promote social responsibility and ecological sustainability in science, is to receive the prestigious 2014 Prigogine Medal in recognition for scientific work in the physics of organisms and sustainable systems she pioneered more than 20 years ago.
The Prigogine Medal was established in 2004 by the University of Siena in Italy and the Wessex Institute of Technology in the United Kingdom in honour of Ilya Prigogine, who received the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for contribution to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures that has inspired scientists and the general public alike. The main theme of Prigogine’s scientific work was the nature of time in the physical sciences and biology as engendered in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Prigogine contributed significantly to the understanding of irreversible processes, and how dynamic order can arise in systems far from equilibrium (“order out of chaos”), which has had profound consequences for understanding biological and ecological systems.
Professor Carlos Brebbia, Director of Wessex Institute of Technology and head of the Prigogine Medal Committee stated that Prigogine’s ideas established the basis for ecological systems research. “The Prigogine Medal to honour his memory is awarded annually to a leading scientist in the field of ecological systems.” He says, “All recipients have been influenced by the work of Prigogine.” The Committee, consisting of past Prigogine Laureates, “overwhelmingly” supported the nomination of Mae-Wan Ho.
“I am so very pleased to get this award, the first and only award I’ve ever had for contribution to science that really reflects my science.” The 2014 Prigogine Laureate says. “Prigogine inspired me very early on in my career. I used to attend every one of his lectures just to sit in awe, before I could understand any of his technical arguments.”
Prigogine initiated a new way of understanding living systems, she explains, and hopes that her award will encourage other scientists to follow his lead away from the dead end of mechanistic biology to a thoroughly organic approach that crosses all the disciplines (as she herself has done).
Past Prigogine Laureates include quantum physicist Emilio Del Giudice, well-known for his contributions to quantum electrodynamics of condensed matter; Gerald Pollack, the world’s foremost researcher on “the fourth phase of water”; Robert Ulanowicz, theoretical network ecologist and philosopher; and Sven Jorgensen, systems ecologist and chemist.
Mae-Wan will be receiving the award at the start of the Sustainable City Conference to be held at the University of Siena 23 September 2014. During the award ceremony, she will deliver an inaugural public address on “Circular Thermodynamics of Organisms and Sustainable Systems”. She will explain how, by organizing activities in cycles over a range of nested space-times, organisms manage to approach thermodynamically the most efficient (zero entropy) transformation of energy and material simultaneously under equilibrium and far from equilibrium conditions. This confirms and extends Prigogine’s theory of minimum entropy production in living organisms, and has important implications for sustainable cities and other built environments as well as sustainable ecosystems and economic systems.
For further information on the 2014 Prigogine Award please visit: www.wessex.ac.uk/prigogine2014