The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

About the Prize

Photo credit: Star Black
Drs. Vicki Lundblad, Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider receive the 2008 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize from Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland.

The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize was created through the vision and generosity of Nobel Laureate and Vincent Astor Professor Paul Greengard and his wife, the sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard. Dr. Greengard donated his entire monetary share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Rockefeller to establish the annual prize in honor of the accomplishments of women scientists. The prize is named in memory of Dr. Greengard’s mother, who died giving birth to him, and includes a $100,000 honorarium.

By putting the spotlight on the accomplishments of women scientists, Dr. Greengard hopes to increase the likelihood that women will receive their fair share of the highest honors in science. To this end, Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, 2008 co-recipients of the Greengard Prize, shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

Unlike Drs. Blackburn and Greider, some outstanding women scientists have failed to receive recognition to their revolutionary contributions to science. In other cases, acknowledgement came slowly. Mary Frances Lyon, a luminary in the field of mammalian genetics, was presented the 2006 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize for a discovery which was made more than 40 years earlier in 1961, when she posited the existence of a process she called X chromosome inactivation. Often called Lyonization in honor of Dr. Lyons, this process has proven to be a key genetic control mechanism studied in laboratories around the world, including those working on the cutting edge of epigenetics.

Each year the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize is presented by a distinguished woman from a different field of endeavor. Presenters have included Sandra Day O’Connor, Joan Didion, Andrea Mitchell and the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

About the Prize

Paul Greengard, Ph.D.

Paul Greengard
2000 Nobel Laureate
Vincent Astor Professor
Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Dr. Paul Greengard is the Vincent Astor Professor of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at The Rockefeller University and Director of The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research. Greengard received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1953. He spent five years in England receiving advanced training at the University of London, at Cambridge University and at the National Institute of Medical Research. Upon his return to the United States, Greengard worked as Director of the Department of Biochemistry at Geigy (now Novartis) Research Laboratories, in Ardsley, New York for eight years. In 1967, he left the pharmaceutical industry to return to academia. From 1968 to 1983 Greengard served as Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at Yale University, at which time he moved to his current position at The Rockefeller University.

Dr. Greengard shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries about the brain’s biochemistry. His pioneering studies have provided a conceptual framework for understanding how the nervous system functions at the molecular level. Dr. Greengard and his colleagues revealed that molecules called phosphoproteins play key roles in determining how nerve cells respond to stimuli and have demonstrated that there are distinct biochemical classes of nerve cells. These findings overturned a once-prevalent misconception that all nerve cells are identical, and they are pointing the way toward the design of highly specific drug therapies for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Dr. Greengard’s achievements have earned him many other distinguished awards including the Metropolitan Life Foundation Award for Medical Research, The Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Health, the Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience, The National Academy of Sciences Award in the Neurosciences, the 3M Life Sciences Award of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. He is an Honorary Member of the National Academies of Science in Sweden, Norway and Serbia and has been the recipient of many honorary degrees. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Ursula von Rydingsvard

Ursula von Rydingsvard portrait B&W

Ursula von Rydingsvard is a sculptor who has been working in Brooklyn, New York for the past 30 years. Von Rydingsvard is best known for creating large-scale, often monumental sculpture from cedar beams, which she painstakingly cuts, assembles, and laminates, finally rubbing powdered graphite into the work’s textured, faceted surfaces. She deliberately uses cedar boards milled into 4” x 4” widths with varied lengths, creating a neutrality or “blank canvas” which enables her to dip into a wide range of possibilities often within the arena of the psychological and emotional. Her signature abstract shapes refer to things in the real world—simple vessels, bowls, tools and other objects—each revealing the mark of the human hand while also summoning natural forms and forces.

Born in Germany in 1942, von Rydingsvard and her family were among the dispossessed that, after the war, were forced to move from one refugee camp for displaced Poles to another, eventually settling in the United States in 1950. The artist’s respect for organic materials and the dignity of labor, the sense of loss and pain, and the persistent memories that inform her work may be traced back to these formative experiences.

Von Rydingsvard’s sculpture is included in numerous permanent collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum; Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Detroit Institute of Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. She is the recipient of two individual grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, two awards from the American International Critics Association, the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture and in 2008 was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Sculpture Center presented a survey of her sculpture in Winter/Spring 2011; it will travel to the DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts; the Frost Museum, Miami, Florida; and MOCA Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio. Also in 2011, Prestel published a monograph by Patricia Phillips on her work: Ursula von Rydingsvard: Working.

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