Two American professors shared the 2013 King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for medicine for their pioneering works on the genetics of obesity, while a prominent Islamic worker from occupied Palestine, Sheikh Raid Salah Mahagna, was declared winner of the prize for service to Islam. The announcement was made by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Makkah governor, and Abdullah Al-Othaimeen, KFIP secretary-general, here last night.
In his citation, Al-Othaimeen cited a Canadian professor from the University of Ottawa and an Austrian/Hungarian working in the Ludwig Maximillians University in Munich as co-winners of the prize in the category of science (physics). The prize for Arabic Language and Literature went to the Cairo-based Arabic Language Academy. The award for Islamic studies (studies on Islamic criminal law) was withheld this year, as none of the nominees met the criteria laid down by the selection committee.
Each of the five prize categories consists of a certificate, hand-written in Arabic calligraphy summarizing the laureate’s work, a commemorative 24 carat, 200-gram gold medal, uniquely cast for each prize and a cash award of SR 750,000 ($ 200,000). The co-winners in any category share the monetary grant. The prizes will be awarded during a ceremony in Riyadh under the auspices of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
According to the citation, Sheikh Mahagna, chairman of the Supreme Council of Islamic Call and chairman of the Islamic Movement in Palestine, was named the winner of the prize in the “service to Islam” category in recognition of his efforts to serve Islam. Mahagna, who is also the chairman of Al-Aqsa Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Revered Islamic Places, has been a founding member of the Islamic movement in occupied Palestinian territories since 1948.
He is one of the pioneers who has led many projects in Al-Aqsa Mosque in collaboration with the Islamic Endowment Organization in Al-Quds and the Committee for the Conservation of the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Mahagna was also the first to discover the tunnel dug under Al-Aqsa Mosque by the occupiers. His endeavor has been reinforced by his profound knowledge of Islamic heritage and the principles of Islam that he follows.
According to the citation, professor Paul B. Corkum, research chair in Attosecond Photonics, University of Ottawa (Canada), and professor Ferenc Krausz, an Austrian scientist, shared the prize in recognition of their independent pioneering works, which has made it possible to capture the incredibly fast motion of electrons in atoms and molecules.
Professor Corkum was the first to explain this phenomenon with a conceptually simple model. He has harnessed this process for pioneering studies in collision physics, plasma physics and molecular science. He has even been able to produce tomographic images of the movement of electrons in molecules.
Professor Krausz has developed powerful techniques for generating intense, tailored, waveforms of laser light, and he has applied these tools for observing and controlling the motion of electrons on a time scale of attoseconds to femtoseconds. His group was the first to generate single ultraviolet pulses with a duration as short as 80 attoseconds.
In the medicine category, the King Faisal Prize for Medicine was given to American professor Jeffrey of Rockefeller University, New York. The prize was shared by professor Douglas Leonard Coleman, who works as a senior staff scientist at the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine. The research findings of professor Friedman and professor Coleman led to the identification and characterization of the leptin pathway.
This seminal discovery has had a major impact on our understanding of the biology of obesity, describing some of the key afferent pathways in body weight regulation active in man. Their fundamental discoveries have also helped in the recognition of more illuminating views of the endocrine system. Because of their major contribution to the field of the genetics of obesity they have been awarded King Faisal International Prize in Medicine for the year 1434H. (2013), the citation said.
These studies have contributed significantly to a better understanding of the biology of obesity, which will eventually help to find out novel strategies of diagnosis and treatment. The works in the area of obesity is important keeping in view the large number of people suffering from this ailment especially in the Kingdom and the Middle East.
In the category of Arabic language and literature, the KFIP went to the Cairo-based Arabic Language Academy for individual and institutional efforts in writing Arabic dictionaries. The role of the academy was commended for its distinguished contributions to Arabic language over the past 80 years, of a large collection of general and specialized Arabic language dictionaries which it has produced in collaboration with different experts.
These illustrious dictionaries are characterized by their diversity and fulfillment of the needs of different Arabic language users, by linking contemporary Arabic language with its past and by utilizing modern techniques and methodologies of dictionary production.
The King Faisal International Prize laureates have earned numerous prestigious national and international prizes for their efforts. In some cases, KFIP has preceded other international awards, including the Nobel Prize, thus validating the rigorous and unbiased selection process.
Speaking to reporters on the occasion, Prince Khaled, who is also the director general of the King Faisal Foundation, thanked all those who participated in the evaluation of nominations from all over the world. Asked if the foundation would consider awarding a prize for promoting rapprochement among the followers of different faiths or in other areas, he said it was a good suggestion, which would be submitted to the KFF secretariat.
The King Faisal Foundation also announced topics for the 2014 King Faisal International Prize. The topic for Islamic Studies is “Cultural heritage of Makkah Al-Mukarrama”. The other topics are: Studies on modern Arabic novel (in Arabic language and literature category), and noninvasive diagnosis of fetal diseases (medicine). In science category, exceptional works in physics will be awarded. The deadline for nomination is May 1, 2013.
Asked about the parameters for selection of winners, Prince Khalid said that merit and excellence are the criteria for selection. As testimony to the high caliber of prize recipients and to the importance of the research carried out by KFIP laureates, many winners have gone on to win Nobel prizes for the same works that were recognized by KFIP, he added.
King Faisal Foundation was established in 1976 by the eight sons of the late King Faisal. The ongoing memorial to a great king has revitalized the traditions of Arabic and Islamic philanthropy.
Of the many philanthropic activities of the foundation, the King Faisal International Prize is the most widely known. The foundation presents this annual prize to dedicated men and women whose contributions make a positive difference in the world. By drawing attention to important issues and rewarding gifted scientists, who have made these issues a priority in their careers, it is hoped that the direct and indirect effects of the prize will be far reaching.
The King Faisal Foundation has given 223 prizes since its inception so far. The US tops in terms of the number of KFIP winners, followed by Egypt, the UK and Saudi Arabia.
Besides awarding KFIP, the foundation carries out humanitarian activities including charity work, investment projects, scholarships and health projects in more than 29 countries across the globe.

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