Balzan Prizes recognize achievements in study of human evolution, black holes with $840,000 awards

An American literary historian, a French paleoanthropologist, a Danish evolutionary geneticist and a German-Dutch astrophysicist have been named the winners of this year’s Balzan Prize. Their work in the humanities and natural sciences advances the study of comparative literature, human evolution and black holes.

David Damrosch, chair of Harvard University’s comparative literature department, was recognized for “his creative approach to world literature as a translational circulation of works that remain alive because they are embraced and changed,” the Balzan Foundation said in its citation.

Frenchman Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max-Planck-Institute for evolutionary anthropology in Leipzig was cited for his discoveries of the oldest Homo sapiens in Africa, contributing to the study of human evolution. The citation also praised his ability to synthesize data, organize scientific teams and his qualities as a teacher “and popularizer.”

Also awarded for contributions to the study of human evolution, Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark was cited for studies of human DNA, focusing on population migrations to “transform our understanding of human history.” The citation said he used ancient DNA from teeth to identify human pathogens and

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