The Israeli Wolf Prize will be awarded at the end of May to nine laureates in the fields of music and science, including legendary British rocker Sir Paul McCartney.
The Wolf Foundation announced on Monday that it selected McCartney – who will share the prize with conductor Adam Fischer – for being “one of the greatest songwriters of all time.” McCartney’s songs, the prize jury noted, “will be sung and savored as long as there are human beings to lift up their voices.”
The nine laureates – in the fields of music, agriculture, physics, chemistry and mathematics – are invited to a special ceremony at the Knesset hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at the end of May.
Until now, McCartney’s only appearance in Israel was in 2008, when he performed for a near-capacity crowd of 50,000 at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. During his stay, the former Beatles member also visited the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Beit Sahur east of Bethlehem and met with representatives of the NGO OneVoice. At the meeting, McCartney said: “I’m not a politician – I just want to bring a message of peace.”
Fischer, who will split the $100,000 prize with McCartney, is recognized for his work as conductor of the Vienna State Opera, the Dusseldorf Symphony, the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra and many others, as well as for his political activism.
The prize in agriculture – the only 2018 honor not divided between two people – will be awarded to Prof. Gene Robinson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne for his work with honeybees.
The 2018 prize in chemistry will be given to Omar Yaghi, a Jordanian American who works in metal-organic frameworks at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Tokyo’s Makoto Fujita, for his contributions to metal-guided synthesis.
Charles H. Bennett and Gilles Brassard will share the prize in physics this year for their collaborative work in the “rapidly expanding field of quantum information science,” according to the foundation. Bennett is based at the IBM Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, while Brassard works at the University of Montreal.
The mathematics prize this year will be shared by two professors from the University of Chicago, Alexander Beilinson and Vladimir Drinfeld, whose work has made significant progress “at the interface of geometry and mathematical physics.”
The Wolf Prize has been awarded since 1978 by The Wolf Foundation, which was established in 1975 with a $10 million endowment from the Wolf family. While it is a private, non-profit NGO, its activities are overseen by the State Comptroller, and the culture minister acts as chairman of its council.
The awardees were announced Monday by Rivlin, previous laureate and Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman, and Wolf Foundation CEO Reut Inon Berman.
The foundation said all of the laureates are “expected to arrive in Israel” in May for the ceremony and other related events. The foundation could not confirm the participation of McCartney, but told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that those close to him who were notified of the award, “said he would see it as a big compliment, and he would be exceptionally grateful.”
Previous recipients of the Wolf Prize in music include conductor Zubin Mehta, violinist Isaac Stern and pianist Daniel Barenboim. The prize has never gone to an icon of pop culture like McCartney.
In a 2008 interview with the Post’s David Horovitz ahead of his Tel Aviv show, McCartney touted fellow musicians like Bono and Bob Geldof, who spearheaded relief and charity movements.
“There are lots of people who are trying to focus on helping. So I’m optimistic... I think the human race is a pretty amazing thing. I think the human spirit is a great thing. So I have faith that things will work out well.”
David Brinn contributed to this report.