The Foundation for Polish Science Prize was awarded for the 21st year on 6 December 2012 at the Great Hall of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Statuettes and cash prizes of PLN 200,000 each were awarded to professors Krzysztof Palczewski from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Mieczysław Mąkosza from the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Maciej Wojtkowski from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and Ewa Wipszycka from the University of Warsaw.
The ceremony was honoured by the presence of President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski and Minister of Science and Higher Education Prof. Barbara Kudrycka. The guests included Minister Olgierd Dziekoński, Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of Poland, Prof. Michał Kleiber, President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Prof. Andrzej Jajszczyk, Director of the National Science Centre, Prof. Michał Karoński, Chairman of the Council of the National Science Centre, and numerous representatives of the scientific community, guests of the winners, and the media.
Congratulating the winners of this year’s Prize, President Komorowski thanked them, and the Foundation as well, for “helping assure that Poland has future generations of scientists—further generations of people thinking about the future and the past in a way that is useful for the development of the country as a whole.” The President also stated that Polish science has many resources and tools at its disposal, talent, experience and human capital enabling it to compete successfully with other countries.
Prof. Kudrycka told the recipients, “It is you who set the highest standards for research. You provide the most worthy example for your colleagues and future generations of researchers.”
Videos were shown presenting the scientific achievements of each of the winners. Prof. Andrzej Jerzmanowski, Chair of the Foundation’s Advisory Board, discussed the rules under which the FNP Prize is awarded.
FNP President Prof. Maciej Żylicz and Prof. Jerzmanowski presented the first of the prizes to Prof. Krzysztof Palczewski, who was honoured in the field of life and earth sciences. In his address, Prof. Palczewski said, “Science is the quest to know the unknown. It is not always possible, but the quest has always been my passion. It is one of the most wonderful occupations a person can perform.” Prof. Palczewski stressed that being a scientist is not only an honour, but also a duty, because of the responsibility for introducing new generations of researchers into the profession.
The second recipient of the prize was Prof. Mieczysław Mąkosza, honoured in the field of the chemical and material sciences. In his speech, Prof. Mąkosza mentioned not only the brilliance of Polish science, but also its deficiencies. In his view, one of the greatest weaknesses is the slow professional development of researchers. Describing his own involvement in seeking to improve this situation, Prof. Mąkosza declared that he would devote a significant portion of the FNP Prize to a foundation established by himself to support the scientific independence of young researchers.
Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski, recognized in the field of math, physics and engineering, described the importance to him, as a physicist, of light. “It is an elusive substance that defines space and time through its properties,” he said. “We are in the unique situation of being able to perceive light using the organ of sight. I am thankful to the Creator that I can use light, the original element of matter, to study such a highly complex structure as the eye, with the help of state-of-the-art instruments and technologies developed by the human mind.”
Prof. Ewa Wipszycka, receiving the prize for the humanities and social sciences, described the role and tasks facing scholars in the humanities: “Humanists bring to the society an awareness of its own nature, where it comes from, how it was shaped, the conflicts that tear it apart but also hasten its development, what the society is today and what it will be in the future.” Prof. Wipszycka stressed that humanists should practise scholarship for the sake of curiosity, which is a common characteristic of all mankind.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the winners received a special tribute in the form of a concert performed by talented young musicians under the care of the Polish Children’s Fund.
The emcee for the event was science journalist Sławomir Zagórski.