May 13, 2012
Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society (MPG) was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor at a ceremony in New York on Saturday. The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) confers this award every year on personalities who have used their extraordinary abilities to improve the lives of others around the world. “This acknowledgement of our work gives me great pleasure. I accept the award on behalf of the more than 21,000 employees of the Max Planck Society, whose commitment to basic research helps find solutions to global challenges”, said Peter Gruss at the awards ceremony. The Medal of Honor is originally intended for US citizens. However, science is an international concern and the Max Planck Society provides pivotal impulses for social progress, Gruss was chosen for the accolade in the category Global Humanitarian.
Research in the Max Planck Society covers a broad spectrum. While the various disciplines in the human sciences are concerned with, among other issues, the origin and understanding of societies, and thus with the co-existence of cultures, basic research in the natural sciences faces up to the resulting global challenges. Research is conducted in future-relevant topics, such as personalised medicine, which uses innovative methods to treat problematic diseases like Alzheimer’s in a more targeted way. An equally vital field is that of sustainable energy - from investigations into nuclear fusion to the trial of procedures for emulating photosynthesis with simple technical systems, through to large-scale solar energy storage using novel chemical means.
In order to meet these global challenges, the Max Planck Society appoints the best researchers from around the world. This international mix is one of the basic constants of the German science organization. Almost half of its doctoral candidates are from outside Germany, and the number of post docs lie at around 90 per cent. The principle of excellence before nationality also applies to the Directors of the Max Planck institutes: About 30 per cent of the 277 Scientific Members have a non-German passport, with US citizens accounting for the largest group. The Max Planck Society also participates in numerous partnerships and collaborations with research establishments in the US. Through its Max Planck Florida Institute, the German research organization also carries out basic research in the neurosciences directly in the US.
Over 100 personalities received the Medal of Honor at the ceremony on Ellis Island. The accolade has been in existence since 1986 and is named after the island in New York’s harbour district through which more than twelve million immigrants once arrived in the US. It aims to draw attention to the fact that the cultural diversity of the United States, along with a shared understanding of pluralism and democracy, are at the root of the country’s success. Previous winners include six US presidents, as well as Nobel laureates and personalities from industry, culture and sports.