ESF awards 13th European Latsis Prize to James Vaupel on pioneering demographic research

November 23, 2011

Strasbourg -- The European Science Foundation (ESF) has awarded this year's European Latsis Prize to Professor James W. Vaupel, of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. The theme for this year's prize was "Demography." Professor Vaupel was awarded the prize for his contributions to research on ageing and lifespan, and his profound influence on demographic research. The Prize was awarded on the eve of the Annual Assembly of the European Science Foundation, which will take place on 24 November in Strasbourg, France.

The European Latsis Prize, entering its 13th year, is valued at 100,000 Swiss francs (€80,000). The Prize is funded by the Geneva-based Latsis Foundation and awarded by the ESF to an individual or a research group who, in the opinion of their peers, has made the greatest contribution to a particular field of European research. The theme "Mathematics" has been chosen for the 2012 Latsis Prize.

"The recognition of my work into demographic research is extremely flattering and I am delighted to be considered for such an esteemed award," commented Vaupel. "This research has been my life work and I am extremely passionate about it. The world is continually changing - and demographic changes are quite fascinating. I like to say - based on our research - that 70 year-olds today are as healthy as 60 year-olds were 50 years ago. We are gaining about two additional years of healthy life every decade."

James Vaupel is honoured for a lifetime of groundbreaking research into the biology of ageing, the statistics of senescence and the connection between public health and longevity. His key papers on mortality and lifespan have each been cited many hundreds of times, and he has been honoured by the Ipsen Foundation in France and twice by the Population Association of America. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. The Latsis Prize - announced in the month that the planet's human population reached 7 billion - highlights the importance of both the discipline and his contribution to it.

He founded the Max Planck Institute in Rostock in 1996 and turned it into one of the world's leading centres of demographic research. He and colleagues have looked for lessons about the dynamics of ageing - going also beyond the human species - to see if senescence is a property of all complex systems. But perhaps his most dramatic contribution is in the contention that there seems no looming limit to human lifespan: an argument he put with Jim Oeppen in Science in 2002.

The criteria used in the selection procedure are scientific excellence, societal impact, and contribution to European progress. The nominations were evaluated by a jury of eminent scientists in the field. Sir Roderick Floud, chairman of the jury that selected Professor Vaupel as the winner of this year's prize remarks "Professor Vaupel was chosen because of his seminal contributions to several different fields within demography, his central role in the development of demographic research and training in Europe, and the importance of his work for the understanding of the "grand challenge" of population ageing in Europe."
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European Science Foundation

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