Events & Media

Bren Professor Wins Balzan Prize

Congratulations to Bren professor David Tilman, who has received a prestigious 2014 Balzan Prize in recognition of “his huge contributions to theoretical and experimental plant ecology."


David Tilman

Professor Tilman received the prize for Basic/Applied Plant Ecology; the acknowledgement of his contributions was read by Charles Godfray, Hope Professor of Zoology at the University of Oxford, who added, "[Dr. Tilman's] work underpins much of our current understanding of how plant communities are structured and interact with their environment."

The Balzan Prize includes a cash award of €500,000 (about $650,000) , the same amount that is awarded to Noble Prize winners. At least half of the amount is expected to be used to further the research of young scholars.

"Needless to say, I'm surprised and delighted by this tremendous honor," Tilman said during a brief pause amid his summer travels.

Professor Tilman has a dual appointment at the Bren School and the University of Minnesota, where he is Regents' Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Ecology and Director of the university’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. His research focuses on the causes, consequences, and conservation of Earth’s biodiversity, and on how managed and natural ecosystems can sustainably meet human needs for food, energy, and ecosystem services.

His current research explores ways to use biodiversity as a tool for biofuel production and climate stabilization through carbon sequestration. His work on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy has critically examined the full environmental, energetic, and economic costs and benefits of grain crops, of current food-based biofuels, and of biofuels made from diverse mixtures of prairie grasses and other native plants growing on already-degraded lands. He has also dedicated much of his career to communicating with the public, politicians, and the managers of Earth’s ecosystems in policy contexts.

Find out more about the 2014 Balzan Prizes.
The first Balzan Prizes were awarded fifty years ago, when Lina Balzan decided to honor the memory of her father, Eugenio, and further his principles by using his considerable estate in the work of promoting knowledge.

Two Balzan Prizes are awarded annually in the category of Physical, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, and Medicine; two others are awarded at intervals of no less than three years in the category of Literature, Moral Sciences, and the Arts.

Subject areas are selected and nominations are made by a prize committee comprising eminent European scholars and scientists working within the International Balzan Prize Foundation in Milan, Italy.

According to foundation chairmen, Enrico Decleva and Achille Casanova, the prestige and standing of the prizes reflects  "the valor of the prizewinners" and their ability to stimulate research, and "the elaboration of new concepts and experiences that can enrich science and culture and the most meritorious of humanitarian initiatives."