Kalinga Prize laureate

2009

Vietnam
Trinh Xuan Thuan

In recognition of his work in sharing scientific knowledge and its discoveries though print media in a form that is accessible to scientific and non-scientific readers

Trinh Xuan Thuan was born in Vietnam and earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics (with Honors) at the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics at Princeton University. He is an Astrophysicist and is internationally recognized for his research in extragalactic astronomy (concerning objects beyond the Milky Way) and is the author of more than 230 articles on the formation and evolution of galaxies, in particular of dwarf galaxies, and on the synthesis of light elements in the Big Bang. For his astronomical research, Thuan makes use of the largest telescopes on Earth (Kitt Peak, Hawaii, Chile...) and in space (Hubble, Spitzer...). In late 2004, thanks to observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope, he discovered the youngest known galaxy in the universe (I Zwicky 18), a discovery that was amply discussed in the international press. In addition to his research, Trinh Xuan Thuan teaches the Astronomy for Poets course at the University of Virginia where students with a non-scientific background can discover the wonders of the universe related in non-technical language.

Thuan has published many books for non-scientific readers. Among his most famous are: The Secret Melody (1994), a panorama of modern cosmology and its philosophical implications; An Astrophysicist, an autobiography; Birth of the Universe - The Big Bang and After (1993), an illustrated history of the Big Bang; Chaos and Harmony (2000), a synthesis of the perspectives of scientific revolutions in the 20th century and of their philosophical implications; The Quantum and the Lotus (2001), a dialogue with the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard on convergences and divergences of science and of Buddhism in their descriptions of reality; Origins (2003), a coffee-table book illustrated with splendid photographs of the cosmos, which tells the 14 billion-year history of the Universe from the Big Bang to the emergence of the life and consciousness; and The Ways of Light (2007), explaining the Universe through the signals it sends us in the form of light. This latter book has been awarded the 2007 Grand Prix Moron by the Académie française. All of his books were originally written in French and have since been translated into at least 20 languages, including English. Trinh Xuan Thuan is regularly an invited guest on television and radio talk shows in the USA, France and elsewhere.

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