David Mermin, the Horace White professor of physics emeritus, has been named the recipient of this year’s Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 Prize. Mermin learned that he is the 2017 recipient in a letter from the former Czech first lady, Dagmar Havlová. He is the 19th recipient of the award.
Mermin, whose research interests and work lay in theoretical condensed-matter physics and the foundations of quantum physics and special relativity, will be the first physicist to receive this award. He is best known for the Mermin-Wagner theorem, as a long-time columnist for Physics Today, and as coauthor of “Solid State Physics” with Neil Ashcroft. The book has been translated into Japanese, German, French, Polish, Portuguese and Russian. Many of his general writings on the culture of science were published in 2016 as “Why Quark Rhymes with Pork, and Other Scientific Diversions.”
The VIZE 97 Prize is an international prize awarded to significant thinkers whose work “crosses the traditional framework of scientific knowledge” and “contributes to the understanding of science as an integral part of general culture, and in an unconventional way deals with the fundamental questions of knowledge, being and human existence.” The prize was started in 1991 by the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation which offers grants for cultural and social objectives and aims to give long-term support to projects that are “forward-looking and pioneering” and which “seek to overturn conventions and foster what may be an inspiration for or have a major and beneficial influence in the future.”
Previous recipients of the award include Umberto Eco, the semiotician and novelist; Julia Kristeva, the psychoanalyst and literary critic; and Robert Reich, the economist who was secretary of labor under President Clinton. The annual award ceremony will take place in Prague, Czech Republic, on October 5, the birthday of President Václav Havel.
Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts Sciences.