Press Release No. 18 | 15 May 2009
Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker Awarded the Order of the Rising Sun
Former DFG President Decorated with the Highest Japanese Honour for Foreign Nationals in Tokyo
Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, the former President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), has received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon in Tokyo, in honour of his many years of service to scientific cooperation between Japan and Germany and to the internationalisation of science and research. Professor Winnacker received the Order, together with other Japanese and foreign citizens, from Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. Following the dignified and stately award ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Winnacker, together with the other new recipients of the Order, attended an audience with Emperor Akihito.
The DFG congratulated its former president on receiving the Order. "This is a well-deserved accolade for one of the most highly respected representatives of German science and research funding worldwide," said the current President of the DFG, Professor Matthias Kleiner. "Expanding and maintaining bilateral contacts in science and research depend critically on the dedication of individuals. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker did a great deal during his time as president of the DFG to promote the intensification of international scientific cooperation, including with Japan." Maintaining and expanding Japanese-German contacts in the field of science and the humanities remains an important matter for the DFG and its research funding, the President of the DFG continued, as was very clearly demonstrated by the opening of the DFG office in Tokyo in mid-April this year.
The Order of the Rising Sun is the second most prestigious Japanese award and the highest national award that can be bestowed upon non-Japanese recipients. The Order, which was established in 1875 and is conferred in different classes, takes the form of rays of sunlight from the rising sun, symbolising the Japanese flag "hi no maru". The rising sun is attributed great power in Japan, meaning that the Order, and the merit that accompanies it, also honour the recipient's resolution and determination. Former German recipients of the Order include the choreographer, Pina Bausch, the former president of the Federation of German Industries, Hans-Olaf Henkel, the former Federal Minister of Research, Heinz Riesenhuber, and Professor of Japanese Studies Wolfgang Schamoni, who also received the Eugen and Ilse Seibold Prize from the DFG this year for his contribution to promoting academic cooperation between Japan and Germany.
The Director of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., also received the Order of the Rising Sun together with Professor Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker. Both of these representatives of the scientific community were nominated by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) - one of the DFG's two partner organisations in Japan. Following the award ceremony of the Order of the Rising Sun, the JSPS organised a symposium on "Academic Exchange between US/Germany and Japan" in honour of Winnacker and Bement. At the symposium, professors Winnacker and Bement spoke to about 100 guests from Japanese politics and scientific administration, both very knowledgeably and with a wealth of personal anecdotes, about the history and the current state of scientific relations between their home countries and Japan. Looking to the future, Professor Winnacker emphasised the importance of the exchange of young scientists and researchers. He explicitly concurred with his Japanese colleague and long-standing friend Professor Motoyuki Ono, President of the JSPS, who had highlighted the Japanese-German International Research Training Groups, which were introduced to the JSPS portfolio as a special funding programme during Winnacker's presidency of the DFG, as a particularly strong motor for exchange in his welcoming speech.
The biochemist Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker led the DFG from 1998 until the end of 2006. In January 2007, Winnacker became the first Secretary-General of the European Research Council (ERC) in Brussels, whose task is to advance the establishment of the European Research Area. His term of office at the ERC will end in the weeks ahead, after which on 1 July 2009, Professor Winnacker (67) will take up his new position as Secretary-General of the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) in Strasbourg. The HFSPO, which was founded in 1989, promotes international research in the life sciences, aiming in particular to improve the promotion of young scientists and researchers.