Three scientists from the United States who have contributed to the fields of information technology and life sciences have won the 1999 Japan Prize, its selection committee announced Wednesday.
The Tokyo-based Science and Technology Foundation of Japan will honor W. Wesley Peterson, 74, who established coding theory for reliable digital communication, and Jack Strominger, 73, and Don Wiley, 54, who worked together to map the three-dimensional structures of antigens.
They will receive their prizes at the 15th Japan Prize award ceremony, scheduled for April 28. Peterson will receive 50 million yen, while Strominger and Wiley will each be given 25 million yen. “I would like to emphasize that the prize is not given for academic merit alone, but to research that led to far-reaching applications and contributed immeasurably to culture and lifestyle,” selection committee head Hiroo Inokuchi said at a news conference at Tokyo’s Japan Press Center.
Peterson, a professor of information and computer sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, established the basis of coding theory and invented the first practical decoding algorithm, used to correct and detect digital errors and increase reliability in data storage, digital communication and broadcasting.
“Without his work, compact discs would have terrible sound quality, and we would not trust CD-ROMs,” said Hideki Imai, an information technology professor at the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology.
Strominger and Wiley, both professors of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, were the first to clarify the 3-D shape of the human histocompatibility complex molecules that form blueprints used by T-cells in their fight against foreign antigens, including viruses and bacteria. “Their study will pave the way for research on rejections in organ transplants and allergic diseases,” the committee said.
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