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Israel Society & Culture: The Wolf Prize

The Wolf Prize is awarded to outstanding Israeli scientists and artists, “for achievement in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples.” The annual prizes of $100,000 are given in four out of five scientific fields in rotation: Agriculture, Chemistry, Mathematics, Medicine and Physics. In the Arts, the prize rotates among Architecture, Music, Painting and Sculpture.

The Wolf Prize was established in 1978 by German-born Ricardo Wolf and his wife Francisca Subirana-Wolf. Dr. Wolf, an inventor, diplomat and philanthropist, lived in Cuba for many years and served as Fidel Castro’s ambassador to Israel from 1961-1973. When Cuba severed ties with Israel in 1973, Dr. Wolf decided to stay in Israel where he spent his final years.

The Wolf Prizes in Physics and Chemistry are often considered the most prestigious awards in those fields after the Nobel Prize. The prize in physics has gained a reputation for identifying future winners of the Nobel Prize – from the 26 prizes awarded between 1978 and 2010, fourteen winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, five of those in the following year.

In medicine, the prize is probably the third most prestigious, after the Nobel Prize and the Lasker Award. Until the establishment of the Abel Prize, the Wolf Prize was probably the closest equivalent of a "Nobel Prize in Mathematics", since the more prestigious Fields Medal was only awarded every four years to mathematicians under forty years old. The Prize in Agriculture has likewise been equated to a “Nobel Prize in Agriculture.”

Click on Any Field to View Prize Winners

Agriculture

Arts

Chemistry

Mathematics

Medicine

Physics


Sources: The Wolf Foundation; Bard, Mitchell G. and Moshe Schwartz. 1001 Facts Everyone Should Know About Israel. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

Photo: רונאלדיניו המלך licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.