French Academy Awards Grand Prize to U.Va.’s Trinh Thuan

Sept. 11, 2007 -- The French Academy has awarded its prestigious Gran Prix Moron to Trinh Thuan, U.Va. professor of astronomy, for his most recent book for a general readership, "The Ways of Light: Physics and Metaphysics of Light and Darkness," published in March by the French publisher, Editions Fayard. The book likely will eventually be published in English.

The academy’s Gran Prix Moron recognizes the distinguished philosophical work of an author involving a new ethic or esthetics. It is roughly equivalent to the American Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award, and has over the years been presented to distinguished authors in French, including statesmen and scholars.

In the 750-page book, Trinh recounts the history — from the ancient Greeks to the present — of how man has entered the realms of light to decipher its secrets. He discusses light, and, thereby darkness, from many aspects, including its importance to the nourishment of life, its importance to science, how the brain interprets light, the art of the impressionist painters, the use of light in architecture such as cathedrals, and the spiritual aspects of light.

The Gran Prix Moron is normally awarded to books of philosophy rather than science. However, Trinh frequently writes about science from a philosophical point of view, as he has done in "The Ways of Light."

Born and raised in Vietnam and educated in Vietnam and France, Trinh writes in French, and has published seven books, some of them best sellers in France. Several have been translated into English. One, "The Quantum and the Lotus," a popular success in France and the United States, was a discussion of physics and Buddhist thinking.

His scientific research is centered on understanding the formation of galaxies.

Thuan will receive his award during a ceremony at the French Academy in November. He also receives a 5,000-euro cash award.