Columbia University’s administration must be dancing and crowing all over campus. The long-awaited Kavli awards were named this morning and two Columbia scientists are among the seven inaugural winners. It wasn’t hard to get its scientists into a press conference with Fred Kavli–the physicist whose eponymous foundation anted up the money for the prize–because Fred was on the Columbia campus, perhaps 100 yards away, to help open the “first annual” World Science Summit.

The new Kavli awards recognize achievements on three scales…the big (astrophysics), the very small (nanotechnology), and the dizzyingly complex (neuroscience). The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters called the recipients early this morning (US time) to give them the good news. The lucky guys:

COLUMBIA’S WINNERS Fred Kavli (far left) poses for photographers with two Columbia recipients of the awards named for him: Thomas Jessell (near left) and Louis Brus (near right). At far right: Reidun Sirevag, secretary general of the Norwegian Academy. Raloff

Maarten Schmidt of Cal Tech and Donald Lynden-Bell of Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy for their work on deciphering quasars and why their light output is so stunningly huge
Sumio Iijima of Meijo University (in Japan) and Louis Brus of Columbia University for their discovery of carbon nanotubes and the field of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, respectively
And Sten Grillner of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Thomas Jessell of Columbia, and Pasko Rakic of Yale for their complementary studies that have shed light on how neural circuitry in the brain (and elsewhere) develops and functions.

      Even Kavli had to wait to find out who would be sharing each $1 million prize until the winners were announced at a ceremony from Oslo. It was televised on four big flat-screen TVs at the summit, which had gotten underway some 30 minutes earlier in the august rotunda of Columbia’s Low Library.

      Science News will be covering details of the winners’ accomplishments. And kudos to the winners.

      Janet Raloff

      Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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