The Inamori Foundation has awarded the 2014 Kyoto Prizes to biomedical engineer Dr. Robert Langer in medicine, theoretical physicist Professor Edward Witten in math, and Fukumi Shimura in the Arts. Each laureate received a diploma, a 20-karat gold Kyoto Prize medal and a cash gift of 50 million yen (approximately US $450,000) in recognition of lifelong contributions to society.  

Langer is an Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and holds more than 800 patents as a leader in the advancement of medicine and engineering. Witten is Charles Simonyi Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) and Ms. Shimura develops natural colors and plant dyes to tell stories with kimono artwork, sharing her craft with younger generations at the art school she founded.

All three laureates are in Kyoto for the week attending the ceremony, holding lectures and workshops, and participating in youth development programs at area institutes.

2014 Kyoto Prize Laureates

Biomedical engineer Dr. Robert Langer, 66, is a founder of the field of tissue engineering and creator of revolutionary drug delivery system (DDS) technologies. Tissue engineering is indispensable for the implementation of regenerative medicine. Dr. Langer’s technique applies biodegradable polymer technologies to construct “scaffolds” for cell growth, contributing to the regeneration of tissues and organs. He has also developed DDS technologies for the controlled release of proteins, nucleic acids, and other macromolecular drugs.

Theoretical physicist Professor Edward Witten, 63, has made outstanding contributions to mathematical science through his exploration of superstring theory. Dr. Witten has served as a leader in the theory’s dramatic evolution for more than 30 years. Superstring theory seeks to unify scientific understanding of the various physical forces that exist within the universe, offering promise to create what physicists have termed a “theory of everything” — one all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework that offers an integrative perspective of how our universe is constructed.

Artist Ms. Fukumi Shimura, 90, has demonstrated artistic creativity for over half a century in her work with tsumugi kimonos. One of the characteristics of her work is her insistence on using an extraordinarily colorful range of plant-dyed yarns to improvise an infinite resonance of colors over canvases of tsumugi kimonos, by which she established her own original style of art and developed a radically new sense of beauty. To create a spectacular variety of natural pigments, she has constantly communicated with nature and deeply meditated “to weave human existence into nature.” She remains actively engaged in all aspects of her art, dedicating great effort to educating the younger generation, and founded an art school, Ars Shimura, in 2013.

The Kyoto Prize is an international award bestowed by the non-profit Inamori Foundation to honor those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of humankind. The Foundation was established in 1984 by Dr. Kazuo Inamori, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera Corporation, founder of and honorary adviser to KDDI Corporation, and chairman emeritus of Japan Airlines