The Wolfgang Paul Award was granted for the first and only time in November 2001 to 14 internationally outstanding scientists and scholars. The award of up to 4.5 million German marks (equivalent to 2.3 million EUR) was the most valuable research award world-wide at the time. It offered foreign award winners (13 males and one female) the opportunity to pursue their research projects free from administrative constraints at a research institution in Germany and to build up their own working groups of highly qualified junior researchers.
The award was financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The funds, equivalent to 25.8 million EUR, were made available from a federal government programme in existence at the time, the Future Investment Programme.
The award winners included six researchers from the life sciences and a further six from the fields of physics, mathematics, engineering and geoscience. The two award winners from the humanities were a linguistics and a philosophy scholar.
Eight of the award winners had previously conducted their research in the USA, three others in the Russian Federation. Prior to receiving the award, one researcher had been working in Great Britain, Hungary and Italy, respectively. The youngest award winner was 35-year old Italian astronomer Roberto Ragazzoni.
The award was named after the physicist Wolfgang Paul (1913 – 1993) who was a pioneer in the area of particle physics. He gained his doctorate in Berlin in 1939 and completed his habilitation at Göttingen University in 1944, becoming Director of the Institute of Physics at the University of Bonn in 1952. In 1989, Wolfgang Paul and Humboldt Research Award Winner Hans G. Dehmelt, together with Norman F. Ramsey, won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the development of an ion trap to help “capture” atomic nuclei. Paul was elected as the third president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 1979 and held the office for ten years.
The Award Winners, their backgrounds and host institutes in Germany
Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading, Neurobiologist, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Host institute: Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences, Heidelberg University
Dr. Christiane Fellbaum, Linguistics Scholar, University of Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Host institutes: Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, Berlin and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
Prof. Dr. Alex B. Gershman, research area: Telecommunications, Russian Academy of Sciences
Host institute: Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems, Duisburg
Prof. Dr. Joachim Herz, Neurobiologist, University of Texas, Dallas, USA
Host institute: Heidelberg University
Prof. Dr. Atac Imamoglu, research area: Optics, formerly at Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Host institute: Institute of Physics, Universität Stuttgart
Prof. Dr. Josef A. Käs, Biophysicist, University of Texas, Austin, USA
Host institute: Institute for Experimental Physics 1, University of Leipzig
Prof. Dr. Alexei Khokhlov, research area: Polymer Physics, formerly at the Lomonosov State University, Moscow, Russia
Host institute: Department for Theoretical Chemistry, University of Ulm
Prof. Dr. Marc Levine, Mathematician specialising in Algebraic Geometry, Northeastern University, Boston, USA
Host institute: University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE). Marc Levine was also awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in 2009.
Prof. Dr. Ferenc Nagy, Biochemist, Biological Research Centre, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Host institute: Institute for Biology II, University of Freiburg
Prof. Dr. Roberto Ragazzoni, Astronomer, Istitute Nationale di Astrofisika, Padua, Italy
Host institute: Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Barry Smith, Philosophy scholar, State University of New York at Buffalo, USA
Host institutes: University of Leipzig and Saarland University
Prof. Dr. Alexander V. Sobolov, Geochemist, Russian Academy of Sciences
Host institutes: Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Prof. Dr. Michele Solimena, Cell Biologist, most recently at Yale University
Host institutes: Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden and Medical Faculty, Technische Universität Dresden (TUD)
Prof. Dr. Andrew Webb, Biophysicist, University of Illinois in Urbana, USA.
Host institute: Julius-Maximilians University at Würzburg