Rolf Schock Prizes 2017 awarded to four epoch-makers

The recipients of this year’s Rolf Schock Prizes have had a huge impact in their fields. Thanks to the breadth of the prizes, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music are able to present four outstanding laureates in widely differing disciplines.

This year’s prizes are awarded to philosopher Ruth Millikan, USA, mathematician Richard Schoen, USA, artist Doris Salcedo, Colombia and the renowned jazz musician Wayne Shorter, USA.

Rolf Shock laureates 2017: Ruth Millikan (Logic and Philosophy) photo: Donald Shankweiler, Richard Schoen (Mathematics), Doris Salcedo (Visual Art) photo: David Heald, Wayne Shorter (Musical Arts) photo: Robert Ascroft.

The prize amount is 500 000 Swedish krona per category, in total 2 million Swedish krona.

“Rolf Schock wanted his prizes to unite science and art, and it is in this spirit that the three academies award the Rolf Schock Prizes in Logic and Philosophy, Mathematics, the Musical Arts and the Visual Arts. We are all delighted to be celebrating four individuals who have been of great significance in their areas. November’s prize ceremony will be a memorable occasion on which the arts meet the sciences, says the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Secretary General, Göran K. Hansson.

The Rolf Schock Prizes 2017

Logic and Philosophy

The Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy for 2017 is awarded to Ruth Millikan, University of Connecticut, USA,

“for her groundbreaking theories about biological functions and the biological foundations of thought and language, where the representational properties of the latter are explained in terms of these functions.”

Ruth Millikan was awarded her doctorate in philosophy by Yale University in 1969, a time when very few women chose to be philosophers. She started her career working part-time at the University of Connecticut and, in these early years, laid the foundations of her ground-breaking research into biological functions and mental representation. Her most influential book, Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories (popularly called LTOBC), was published in 1984 and changed the philosophical landscape in several areas: in the philosophy of biology, in the philosophy of language and mind, and in epistemology. So far, it is the most thorough attempt to provide a naturalistic account of the human ability to represent our surroundings in language and in thought, and is the basis of a major contemporary field of research: teleosemantics. Her starting point is that since human beings are the product of evolution so must their cognitive capacities be.

Ruth Millikan was born in 1933 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Richard Schoen, University of California, Irvine and Stanford University, USA, is receiving the 2017 Rolf Schock Prize in Mathematics,

“for groundbreaking work in differential geometry and geometric analysis including the proof of the Yamabe conjecture, the positive mass conjecture, and the differentiable sphere theorem.”

Richard Schoen holds professorships at , University of California, Irvine and Stanford University, and is one of three vice-presidents of the American Mathematical Society. Schoen works in the field of geometric analysis, which he and Shing-Tung Yau founded in the 1970s and 80s. It studies geometry through non-linear partial differential equations. Development in and around geometric analysis has strikingly transformed large parts of mathematics and been a leading theme for 30 years, including in areas such as gauge theory in 4-dimensional topology (possible structures in space-time), the Floer-Gromov-Witten theory for pseudoholomorphic curves (closely linked to physics’ string theory), Ricci and mean curvature flow (proof of the Poincarés conjecture).

Schoen has produced stunning results in this area from the very beginning. His work is characterised by outstanding technical skill and a clear vision of geometric relevance.

Richard Schoen was born in 1950 in Celina, Ohio, USA, and received his doctorate in 1977 from Stanford University.

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Visual Art

The Rolf Schock Prize in the Visual Arts is awarded to Doris Salcedo for her exceptional ability to achieve material manifestations of loss and longing. Her sensitive and deeply engaging work deals with the long-term consequences of war and lethal violence, and evinces the pain, grief, and empty spaces left behind in souls, homes and entire communities.

Always attentive, always empathic, Doris Salcedo has spent three decades working with sculpture, installations and ceremonial interventions in the public space.

Her scale is monumental. Salcedo creates crushing weight and vertiginous depth, but her works can also be so intimate and delicate enough to be touched by only a fingertip. Hers is a courageous and inclusive oeuvre based on research, memories and testimonies. The actions in public spaces have many co-creators. Salcedo’s works express a general humanity and immediacy that is clear even to those unfamiliar with the original events referenced by these powerful works.

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Musical Arts

The Rolf Schock Prize in the Musical Arts is awarded to saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter with the following motivation:

“For nearly six decades Wayne Shorter has been counted among the most significant creators in progressive jazz music. A distinctive voice, free of mechanical patterns and with an unmistakable inviting and humanistic quality, he has broadened our knowledge and deepened our sensibilities with his improvisations and compositions, and the curiosity that drives him towards the yet undiscovered shows no signs of abating. Wayne Shorter’s music making is an act of enlightenment.”

Wayne Shorter is probably the most important jazz musician alive today. He has been at the centre of jazz music’s artistic development since the end of the 1950s and, at the age of 83, is showing no sign of stagnation. He has collaborated with many of the great names of jazz and pop music, including Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell. Wayne Shorter’s own quartet, which he has led since 2000, has become one of the most successful and influential jazz groups of our time.

During his career, he has produced 25 albums in his own name and won 10 Grammy Awards, as well as a number of other honours, including being the only jazz musician yet to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016, and receiving a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.He is also the recipient of 2017’s Polar Music Prize.

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About the prize

The award ceremony will be held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, on November 14, 2017. More information can be found on .

In 1986, at the young age of 53, Rolf Schock passed away in an accident. Rolf always led a very simple life, and it came as a surprise to many people to learn that he left behind a great fortune. Following his last will and testament, a foundation was established with the purpose to award four prizes in the fields of logic and philosophy, mathematics, the musical arts and the visual arts. Laureates are selected by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts.

From 2017 the prizes are awarded every year.

The prize decisions were taken January 11 (Logic and Philosophy, Mathetmatics), February 6 (Musical Arts).


The Rolf Shock Prizes