Press Release: Starmus announces ground-breaking Stephen Hawking Medals for Science Communication

  • Milestone award for those promoting science throughout the arts
  • Launched under the name of the greatest scientist of the last century, in the context of STARMUS, the most ambitious science festival of all time
  • Hawking: ‘I am delighted to present the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication, to be awarded next year at the STARMUS festival in Tenerife. This medal will recognise excellence in science communication across different media, whether in writing, broadcasting, music, film or fine art’
  • The famous cosmonaut, Alexei Leonov, the first person to make a space walk and member of the Starmus Advisory Board since it first began, designed the medal with a portrait on the front of the well-known British theoretical physicist.
  • The music and space that are brought together at the most ambitious science festival of all time are represented on the back of the medal, with an image of the first space walk and the “Red Special”, the emblematic guitar of another of Starmus’s main participants, the guitarist Brian May.
Medal launched
Royyal Society/Starmus – Prof Garik Israelian, Prof Stephen Hawking, Alexi Leonov, Dr Brian May, Sir Harry Kroto, Dr Richard Dawkins.
Photo: Max Alexander

(LONDON, Wednesday 16 December 2015) A ground-breaking new award for science communication in honour of Professor Stephen Hawking was announced today at the Royal Society in London, by a panel including Hawking, Dr. Brian May, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Alexei Leonov and Prof. Harold Kroto.

The first of its kind, the Medal will recognize the work of those helping to promote the public awareness of science through different disciplines such as music, arts and cinema. Each year, three Medals will be awarded at the STARMUS International Science and Arts Festival in Tenerife.

The Stephen Hawking Medals will award Science Communicator of the Year in three categories:

  • Scientific community
  • Artistic community
  • Film community

At today’s launch at the Royal Society in London, Stephen Hawking outlined his vision for science communication, saying:

‘By engaging with everyone from school children to politicians to pensioners, science communicators put science right at the heart of daily life. Bringing science to the people brings people into science. This matters to me, to you, to the world as a whole.

Therefore I am very pleased to support and honour the work of science communicators and look forward to awarding The Stephen Hawking Medal next summer at the Starmus Festival in Tenerife. I hope to see you all there.’

Professor Garik Israelian, founder of Starmus Festival, commented: ‘This award is a milestone in the history of science, spearheaded by one of the most famous scientists and inspiring figures of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking. As part of this tribute and our desire to bring science and space to the general public, Starmus has created a ground-breaking initiative under the name of one of the greatest scientists of the history.’

In addition to this, Professor Israelian revealed the ‘citizen participation through a popular voting process on social media to decide the awarded on The Starmus Science Communicator of the Year – Filmmaker category, inviting the general public to participate on the awards and make history.’

A portrait of Stephen Hawking by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, has formed the design of the Medal. Leonov commented:

‘Rarely is the life of the artist such a success and so I am very proud that my portrait of Sir Stephen Hawking, a historical figure of world importance, was chosen for this Medal. This Medal is not just a piece of paper, but a visible and tangible object that will inspire reflection for its winners. It is an honour for me.’

The design of the medal used a portrait of Professor Hawking by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to perform a spacewalk and member of the Advisory Council Starmus since its first edition. The other side combines the image of Brian May that of the first spacewalk and the iconic guitar – the “Red Special” – to demonstrate music, another major component of the Starmus Festival.

As well as the speakers panel unveiling the Medal, many special guests participated in the press conference, including Phantom of the Opera singer Sarah Brightman, having recently joined the Starmus music panel, and renowned composer Hans Zimmer.

Dara O’Briain, Prof. Brian Cox OBE and Prof. Kip Thorne were also in attendance, alongside representatives of the Canary Islands, privileged setting of the festival, including Managing Director of The Canary Islands Tourism Board, Ms. María Méndez, and the Councillor for Tourism in Tenerife, Mr. Alberto Bernabé, attended the presentation.

Starmus Festival

Starmus Festival was born with the aim of making the most universal science and art accessible to the public. The music and space Festival brings together the brightest minds from astronomy, prominent space travellers, astrophysicists and stargazers with tech business chiefs and leaders of our creative industries to debate the future of humanity.

After two ground-breaking editions in 2011 and 2014, gathering together the most important representatives of these fields (i.e. Neil Armstrong and Professor Hawking) the programme for Starmus III will feature an unforgettable series of lectures to enable the general public to get a better picture of science, in line with the spirit of education that the festival has espoused since its inception. In addition to its lectures, delivered by some of the world’s most prestigious speakers, the festival will again have a music programme with unique events such as the Sonic Universe concert, including a performances by Brian May and singer Sarah Brightman.

Another of the highlights will be the ‘Ask Hawking’ competition which, as in the previous edition, will enable members of the public to pose questions to the great scientist. This unique opportunity is an additional asset in this incomparable event. The organization will announce details of participants and performers in the months before the festival.

Apart from the lecture series and musical events, Starmus III will make further progress in bringing science to the general public through activities for new audiences, including children, that will make it a ‘cosmic experience’ for all concerned.

Another milestone of this edition is that it will bring together no less than twelve Nobel prize-winners in such disciplines as Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Astronomy and even a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The innovative panel of speakers exemplifies, more than ever before, the event’s aim of bridging the gap between the general public and the exciting world of science through these inspiring figures.

Stephen Hawking has expressed enthusiasm for this edition, stating that once the Starmus vision became ‘a reality’ in the ‘historic’ first two editions the festival ‘will continue to pursue the aim of bringing together some of the best scientists, musicians and artists under one roof: the starry sky of the Canary Islands’. Hawking stated Starmus has ‘an infinite power to inspire any human being and the power of the Starmus experience that will last forever in the hearts and minds of its participants’.

Stephen Hawking Medal - showing the Red Special
Stephen Hawking Medal – showing the Red Special
Stephen Hawking Portrait by Alexei Leonov
Stephen Hawking Portrait by Alexei Leonov