UNESCO issued its first two medals on Japanese themes in 2005, one for each of the two series.* The Hideki Yukawa medal commemorates the first Japanese laureate of the Nobel Prize, for physics, in 1949. An eminent scientist whose work is recognized worldwide, he contributed to the development of theoretical physics, particularly the theory of elementary particles.

Professor Yukawa also received the Imperial Prize of the Japan Academy in 1940 and the Decoration of Cultural Merit in 1943. He earned honorary degrees and memberships from the University of Paris, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Indian Academy of Sciences, the International Academy of Philosophy and Sciences, and the Pontificia Academia Scientiarum. The Japanese National Commission for UNESCO requested that UNESCO should be associated in 2007 with the 100th anniversary of his birth. The General Conference in 2005 adopted a resolution to this effect.

Struck by the Paris Mint, the medal’s obverse features a portrait of the late physicist, while the reverse has the UNESCO logo. It was designed by renowned Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama. In 1961, he was the first recipient of a UNESCO fellowship and has remained active in fellowship programmes since. From 1990 to 1999, Professor Hirayama financed ten fellowships a year, through the Hirayama Silk Roads Fellowships programme He is an active campaigner for the Organization’s work in heritage preservation, both as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and as the Chairperson of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO.

(*see also the Yakushi Temple medal in the World Heritage Series)

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