U.Va. Astronomer Trinh Xuan Thuan Wins UNESCO's Kalinga Prize

November 2, 2009 — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has awarded one of two 2009 Kalinga Prizes for the Popularization of Science to University of Virginia astronomer and author Trinh Xuan Thuan. The other award went to Indian physicist and educator Tash Pal.

The prizes, which include an honorarium, a certificate and the UNESCO-Albert Einstein silver medal, will be awarded Nov. 5 during a ceremony at World Science Day in Budapest.

The UNESCO Kalinga Prize, created in 1952, recognizes distinguished careers in writing, editing, lecturing, broadcasting or film production that interpret science, research and technology to the public. The objective of the prize is part of UNESCO's efforts to promote public awareness of science.

Previous winners have included scientists, journalists, educators and writers, among them Louis de Broglie, Bertrand Russell, Arthur Clarke, Fred Hoyle and Margaret Mead.

Thuan, who has taught astronomy at U.Va. since 1976, is a best-selling author of popular books on science and nature. His academic research is focused on the evolution of galaxies and the chemical composition of the universe.

Born and raised in Vietnam and educated in Vietnam and France, Trinh writes in French, and has published eight books, some of them best-sellers in France. Several have been translated into English and other languages.

His books include "Dictionary of the Lover of the Sky and the Stars" (2009); "The Ways of Light" (2007); "Origins" (2003); "The Quantum and the Lotus" (2001); "Chaos and Harmony" (2001); "Birth of the Universe" (1993); "An Astrophysicist" (1992), and "The Secret Melody" (1995).

In 2007, the French Academy awarded its prestigious Grand Prix Moron to Thuan for "The Ways of Light." That award is roughly equivalent to the American Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award.

— By Fariss Samarrai