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Friday, June 19, 2009

Congratulations, Peter and Barbara Grant

Husband-and-wife team Peter Raymond Grant and Barbara Rosemary Grant have won the 2009 Kyoto Prize in basic sciences.
The Grants, both emeritus professors in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, are known for their work studying the population of birds known as "Darwin's finches" on the Galapagos island of Daphne Major and for showing evolution in action—how beak size and shape evolve through natural selection in changing environmental conditions. Beak size is important, they showed, because if the weather changed and suddenly only large, hard seeds were available, for example, finches with bigger, stronger beaks would be more likely to survive and, over generations, would become more common in the population.
"The Grants' empirical research has made the most important contribution since Darwin toward making evolutionary biology a science in which proof is possible," according to a news release from Japan's Inamori Foundation, which sponsors the award. The prize honors "those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind."
The Grants will receive the award, valued at about 500,000 dollars, in November. —Heather Wax


Anonymous said...

I read the Beak of the Finch in high school and found it to be one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I loved the rational/scientific explanation for how the features of the birds on the island were selected for over time. So glad they are being honored for their amazing work and thanks S&RT for sharing!