A groundbreaking award for science communication bearing the name of renowned English theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking was launched to the public Wednesday, Dec. 16.
In a star-studded affair attended by the luminaries of science, culture, music and the arts, STARMUS founding director and astrophysicist Garik Israelian and a panel that included Hawking, astrophysicist Brian May, Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipient Sir Harold Kroto, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and cosmonaut Alexei Leonov launched the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication.
The medal was created to applaud the efforts of those who are promoting public awareness of science through arts, cinema and music. The award will be given out next summer in the third STARMUS International Science and Arts Festival in Tenerife to deserving individuals in the following categories: the scientific community, the film community and the art community.
The medal features a portrait of Hawking created by Leonov, who considers his contribution to the design as an honor.
"By engaging with everyone from schoolchildren to politicians to pensioners, science communicators put science at the heart of daily life," said Hawking during the medal's launch at the Royal Society in London. "Bringing science to the people brings people into science. This matters to me, to you, to the world as a whole," he added.
The Starmus Festival, which celebrates the fusion of science, art and music, has drawn countless crowds since its inception. Its very name is a combination of Stars and Music, two of the cornerstones of the group. In fact, May, one of its staunchest supporters, is popularly known as the guitarist of the legendary rock band Queen.
"When I was a boy I had two separate dreams, two passions," said May. "One was to be an astronomer and the other was to be a musician." At the height of Queen's success, May had to forego his studies, but he returned to astronomy and pursued his dream in astrophysics.
Also in attendance during the medal's launch were singer Sarah Brightman and composer Hans Zimmer, who have both done work on the musical "The Phantom of the Opera."