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Plant scientist wins Kyoto Prize

Edition 185_Farquhar

Tasmanian plant scientist, Graham Farquhar, AO, has become the first Australian to be awarded a Kyoto Prize.

Announcing the award in June, the Inamori Foundation said Dr Farquhar, a Distinguished Professor at Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, had "developed a series of process models of photosynthesis, making possible the prediction of the environmental responses of carbon dioxide exchange between vegetation and the atmosphere."

Along with two other new laureates, Dr Farquhar will receive a diploma, a 20-carat gold Kyoto Prize medal and prize money of 50 million yen (about AUS$600,000) at a ceremony at the Kyoto International Conference Centre in November.

The plant scientist has previously received the Humboldt Research Award and the Prime Minister's Prize for Science and is an Officer of the Order of Australia. He shared a Nobel Prize in 2007 with 1,000 fellow members of the International Panel for Climate Change.

Dr Farquhar told The Australian's Higher Education Editor, Julie Hare, that a small text book on biophysics that his scientist father brought home from the United States to Tasmania when he was 14 helped to mould his career.

"On advice from eminent ANU researcher Ralph Slatcher, Professor Farquhar took on undergraduate work in physics and maths before moving on to biology," Hare wrote.

"By doing so he was forging a new scientific path by understanding plants from a physics perspective."

Dr Farquhar's work has had widespread practical application around the world, with new water-efficient varieties of wheat and other crops transforming agriculture in harsh environments.

The Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences recognises his life’s work in plant biophysics and photosynthesis and the way it has improved global food security.

Kyoto Prizes have been awarded annually since 1985 to people who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind.

They are awarded in three categories: Advanced Technology; Basic Sciences; and Arts and Philosophy.

The other 2017 Kyoto Prize winners are Takashi Mimura, a Japanese semiconductor engineer and Honorary Fellow at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd and Richard Taruskin, an American musicologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

Image courtesy of The Australian

4 July 2017, Edition 185

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