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Margin Notes

Gairdner Awards celebrate 50 years

Anniversary events include the largest gathering of the world’s top scientists ever held in Canada.


It will be one big, brainy party. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Gairdner Awards, the Gairdner Foundation is hosting next week what is being billed as the largest gathering of the world’s top scientists ever held in Canada.

For three days, from Oct. 28-30, more than 60 past Gairdner Laureates will gather in Toronto to participate in lectures, panel discussions, forums and other events, most of them open to the public.

Says the foundation:

The 50th Anniversary will be a spectacular culmination of everything the Gairdner Foundation has achieved in becoming Canada’s premier international prize, and one of the top three biomedical prizes in the world.  It will be a vehicle to raise awareness of the fascinating world of biomedical science and its importance to lives.

The Gairdner Foundation was created in 1957 to recognize and reward the achievements of medical researchers whose work “contributes significantly to improving the quality of human life.” The first awards were made in 1959.

A measure of their stature is the fact that of the nearly 300 individuals (including 42 Canadians), who have received Gairdner Awards, 75 have subsequently gone on to win the Nobel Prize. The two latest, just this month, were Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, who were named co-winners, with Jack W. Szostak, of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2009. Drs. Blackburn and Greider were Gairdner winners in 1998.

In honour of the 50th anniversary of the awards, the federal government gave $20 million to the Gairdner Foundation to increase the cash worth of the prizes to $100,000 each, and to institute a new individual prize in global health, the Canada Gairdner Global Health Award. As well, starting this year, the awards were officially renamed the Canada Gairdner International Awards. There is also the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award given each year to a Canadian.

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is a former editor of University Affairs.
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