Margaret Somerville is first winner of Avicenna Ethics in Science PrizeMargaret A. Somerville has been chosen as the first winner of the Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, on the recommendation of an international jury which met from September 1 to 3 at Organization Headquarters.
Margaret A. Somerville, who holds dual Australian and Canadian nationality, is Samuel Gale Professor of Law at McGill University in Montreal (Canada), and also holds a professorship at the Faculty of Medicine. Founding Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, she was also founding Chairperson of the Ethics Committee of the National Research Council of Canada. She has served on many editorial boards, advisory boards and boards of directors, including the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics.
Through her books, conferences and other work, Professor Somerville has made an important contribution to the global development of bioethics, and to the ethical and legal aspects of medicine and science. She has also worked with a range of international organizations, such as UNESCO, the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. Among her many works are the recently published The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit and Death Talk: The Case Against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.
The Prize owes its name to the 11th century doctor, philosopher and alchemist and the author of the monumental Canon of Medicine, Abu Ali al-Hosein Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina (980-1038), who was known in Europe by his Latinized name, Avicenna. Consisting of US $10,000 and financed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Prize aims to reward the work of individuals and groups in the field of ethics in science. It will be awarded every two years.
The jury for the Prize comprised Jens Erik Fenstad (Norway), current Chairman of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), Leila Seth (India) and Cheik Modibo Diarra (Mali) also members of the COMEST. The awards ceremony for the Prize is planned for the third session of the COMEST, to be held in Brazil at the beginning of December.
Approving the statutes of the Avicenna Prize last year, UNESCO's Executive Board underlined that “promoting principles and ethical norms to guide scientific and technological development and social transformation” has been recognized as one of the strategic objectives in the Medium-Term Strategy of UNESCO for 2002-2007. The Board also said that “the creation of the Prize will help significantly to increase international awareness and to highlight the importance of ethics in science”.