Dr Binayak Sen, the well-known humanitarian doctor and right activist has won the prestigious 2011 Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientist Award by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS).
The Award was received by a representative of Dr Sen in New York on 22 September as he was unable to travel to the United States to receive it. The other awardee of this prize, given to scientists doing human rights work, was Jack Minker, Professor Emeritus, Department of Computer Science, University of Maryland.
In his acceptance speech Dr Sen said “The support of my professional colleagues, and of the academic community across the world, has been invaluable in securing my freedom.” Apart from the 48 Nobel Prize winners who signed a statement calling for his release Dr Sen recollected that while in Raipur prison he was personally visited by a delegation of leading scientists, including Professor Robert Curl, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996.
“ Then as now, I was personally dumbfounded and humbled by this groundswell of support, which I can only attribute to shared recognition of our common cause of human rights” he said in his speech.
Regarding his own work in Chhattisgarh Dr Sen said that “As a paediatrician and public health physician, I have tried to enhance the public’s understanding of the ways in which poverty and injustice undermine efforts to promote health and peace, which we ourselves take for granted as our own fundamental human rights”
The NYAS’s Committee on the Human Rights of Scientists was created in 1978 to support and promote the human rights of scientists, health professionals, engineers and educators around the world. The committee focuses on rights of scientists who have been detained, imprisoned, exiled, or deprived of the rights to pursue science, communicate their findings to their peers and the general public, and travel freely.
The Academy annually honors scientists for their contributions in this area with the Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award. Heinz Rudolf Pagels (February 19, 1939 – July 23, 1988) was professor of physics at Rockefeller University, the executive director of the New York Academy of Sciences, and president of the International League for Human Rights. He is best known to the general public for his popular science books The Cosmic Code (1982), Perfect Symmetry (1985), and The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity (1988).
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