People: Chemist And Mathematician Are Named Winners Of Two 1994 Kyoto Prizes

Chemist And Mathematician Are Named Winners Of Two 1994 Kyoto Prizes Paul C. Lauterbur, a chemist and director of the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Urbana-Champaign, and André Weil, a French mathematician who is currently an emeritus professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J., have been named winners of the 1994 Kyoto Prizes in the advanced tec

Neeraja Sankaran
Aug 21, 1994

Chemist And Mathematician Are Named Winners Of Two 1994 Kyoto Prizes

Paul C. Lauterbur, a chemist and director of the Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Urbana-Champaign, and André Weil, a French mathematician who is currently an emeritus professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J., have been named winners of the 1994 Kyoto Prizes in the advanced technologies and basic science categories, respectively.

The two researchers will each be honored with a commemorative gold medal and cash award of about $430,000 during award ceremonies to be held in Kyoto, Japan, November 9-12.

The Kyoto Prizes, considered Japan's highest award for lifetime achievement, are presented by the Inamori Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Kyoto whose mission is to recognize individuals and groups whose work has had a significant beneficial impact.

Lauterbur, 65, was the first scientist to make an image using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). He predicted the technique's potential when he first described it (P.C. Lauterbur, Nature, 242:190-1, 1973). This work was pivotal in the development of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, which is now widely used in medical diagnostic imaging, providing a noninvasive method to look at the brain, spinal cord, pelvic organs, heart, and joints without surgery or X-rays.

"I believe there are something like 6,000 MRI machines in hospitals around the world today," says Lauterbur. "The technique is also widely used in nonmedical types of biological research--one can now combine the anatomical information obtained from imaging with spectroscopy data [from the same region] and determine where changes are taking place in the body. One can conduct basic physiologic studies on muscle function by spectroscopic measurements of phosphorus metabolites, for example."

Nowadays, Lauterbur is attempting to improve existing imaging techniques so as to facilitate various lines of research. These projects include developing techniques to obtain brain images more rapidly; attempting to obtain better resolution of microscopic MRI (which has vast applications in embryology); and synthesizing and fostering an understanding of magnetic contrast agents--particles that are not seen by NMR but affect the water around them so as to enhance details of the structures being imaged.

A professor of medical information sciences at Illinois, Lauterbur received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962 and did research at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, for 22 years before moving to Illinois. He has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1985.

Weil, 88, was cited by the Inamori Foundation for having influenced "the very course of 20th-century thought in mathematics." He has made major contributions in several different areas of mathematics, notably in the branches of number theory and algebraic geometry. Indeed, according to a recent profile in Scientific American (J. Horgan, 270:33-4, June 1994), colleagues describe Weil as the "last universal mathematician."

A native of Paris, Weil received his doctorate from the University of Paris in 1928. He is well known for creating a theorem of a mathematical conjecture, called the Riemann hypothesis, while a prisoner in a French military prison during World War II. He provided the framework for algebraic geometry, and therefore coding theory, with his "Weil conjectures." At the Institute for Advanced Study, where he has worked since 1958, Weil has pursued a unification of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and topology. He is currently researching the history of mathematics and helping edit the works of two great French mathematicians, Jacques Bernoulli and Pierre de Fermat.