Harald Lesch wins the 2005 Communicator Award

03/29/05

Astrophysicist receives €50,000 for the best communication of science to the public

Harald Lesch will receive this year's "Communicator Award – Science Award of the Donors' Association". The Munich professor of astronomy and astrophysics will be awarded €50,000 for his outstanding achievements in relating his scientific work to the public. The award will be presented on 17 June 2005 by the Presidents of the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) at a commemorative event to be held during this year's scientific summer programme in Berlin, with a lecture by the award winner.

The Communicator Award was created in close cooperation between the DFG and the Donors' Association and will be awarded for the sixth time this year. It honours scientists who have made sustained and exceptional efforts to communicate their work to the general public. A jury of science journalists as well as communications and PR experts evaluates the applications in terms of their relevance, target group, originality and sustained effort. This year, 44 applications from various disciplines were submitted, ten of which were short-listed. From this shortlist the jury selected Harald Lesch as the winner of the 2005 Communicator Award.

Harald Lesch was born in Gießen in 1960 and studied physics in Gießen and Bonn. After receiving his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn in 1987, Lesch became a research assistant at the Königstuhl Observatory in Heidelberg. From 1991 to 1995 the astrophysicist worked as a research assistant at the Max Planck Institute in Bonn and in 1994 he presented his postdoctoral thesis (Habilitation) in astrophysics/astronomy. In 1992 Lesch held a visiting professorship at the University of Toronto in Canada. Since August 1995 he is a professor of theoretical astrophysics at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich and Director of the University Observatory. In addition, in 2002 he took up a professorship in natural philosophy at the University of Philosophy in Munich. Lesch, who obtained the Otto Hahn Medal from the Max Planck Society for his dissertation in 1988, is conducting research in relativistic plasma physics, bioastronomy and black holes.

Lesch has been committed to communicating science to the general public for many years. Of particular note are his numerous appearances on television. In his Alpha Centauri programme at the Bayerischer Rundfunk, Lesch transmits his enthusiasm for science to the audience. Without sophisticated computer simulations and graphics he explains to the interested layperson the world of black holes, and answers complex questions such as "What is time?", "How old is the Earth?", or "What is the future of the Universe like?". In an unusually lean TV format, he exclusively relies on his linguistic skills in order to make complex scientific topics understandable to everyone.

Apart from Alpha Centauri, Lesch has also demonstrated his communication skills in many other radio and TV programmes. Not only in broadcasting, but also in numerous lectures in astrophysics, Lesch's relaxed yet lively style captivates the audience, especially young people. With his popular-scientific publications "Kosmologie für Fußgänger" ("Cosmology for Pedestrians), "BigBang Zweiter Akt" (Big Bang Second Act) and "Physik für die Westentasche" (Physics for the Waistcoat Pocket), Lesch explains the solar system and the world of stars to his readers in a clear and colourful manner. He succeeds in concentrating on the essence of the elementary phenomena in the Universe and in guiding the reader through the complex world of astrophysics.

With the programme "Lesch & Co", which has been broadcast on Bavarian TV since 2001, he bridges the gap between science, philosophy and theology. In a Munich restaurant, accompanied by a bottle of wine, he engages in a dialogue on philosophy and science with the philosopher Wilhelm Vossenkuhl. The two scholars discuss topics like spirit and matter or whether the laws of nature are universal in this relaxed atmosphere.

The jury acknowledged Lesh's sustained achievement in communicating using all media. He is acclaimed as the embodiment of a new generation of science communicators who have the talent to explain complex matters in a simple way.

The Communicator Award is a hologram by the Cologne artist Michael Bleyenberg. It underlines the significance of transparency in science and gives visual expression to the value of putting things in the right light. Just like the hologram, only then will science truly shine.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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