Press Room


January 15, 2009

2009 Japan Prize Goes to Two US Scientists

‘The Limits to Growth’ lead author, Dr. Dennis L. Meadows, and the ‘Father of PET,’ Dr. David E. Kuhl, honored

Tokyo, Japan (January 15, 2009) – The Science and Technology Foundation of Japan today announced two American scientists have won the 2009 Japan Prize in the two fields eligible for the 25th annual awards: “contribution towards a sustainable society in harmony with nature” and “technological integration of medical science and engineering.”

The Japan Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious awards in science and technology. The two laureates of the 2009 Japan Prize are Dennis. L. Meadows, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Systems Policy at the University of New Hampshire, and President of the Laboratory for Interactive Learning, and David E. Kuhl, M.D., Professor of Radiology, University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Meadows, 66, is recognized for “his contribution towards a sustainable world founded in the 1972 report titled ‘The Limits to Growth.’” Dr. Kuhl, 79, is honored for “his contribution to tomographic imaging in nuclear medicine.”

In accepting the Japan Prize, Dr. Meadows said, “Winning the Japan Prize is an enormous honor and an obligation. Fortunately the prize is coming early enough in my life that I still have some decades left and I’m going to redouble my efforts to make sure that I deserve it.

“Looking back at the laureates over the last quarter century, we see people who have laid the foundations for our current society and for industry who’ve made enormous contributions to healthcare and other aspects of quality of life. So I hope that 25 years from now I will be able to look back on another quarter century where the laureates have come more from fields which are laying the foundation for sustainable life on this planet, helping us to create a medical system, an industrial system, a governmental system that lets us all live peacefully and with liberty on this planet.”

Dr. Kuhl said, “I am grateful not only to be singled out, but I’m very pleased that the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan had decided this year to honor and recognize the advancing field of molecular imaging. In molecular imaging there's a hope and expectation that these new non-invasive ways of determining how things work in small internal parts of the body will be key methods for developing new drugs and for managing patients with more individualized, personalized treatment, and that it will have a far greater impact eventually on medicine, through the kinds of information it provides, than we expect from the technology alone now.”

Each of the laureates will receive a certificate of recognition, a commemorative medal and a cash award of 50 million Japanese yen at an award ceremony to be held in Tokyo on April 23.

Summary of Achievements: Dr. Dennis L. Meadows

Dr. Meadows led a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology experts in conducting research commissioned by the Club of Rome as part of its project on the predicament of mankind. Using a system simulation model called “World 3,” the 1972 report analyzed what will happen to the earth and mankind when experiencing continuing geometric growth after World War II. The report demonstrated the limits brought by the depletion of global resources and environmental pollution, highlighting the conflict between the earth’s physical capacity and development of mankind. The report awakened and inspired world efforts towards a sustainable society.

He continued to study the causes and consequences of physical growth on a finite planet and co-authored “Beyond the Limits” (1992) and “Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update” (2004) with his wife, the late Dr. Donella Meadows, and Dr. J. Randers. Employing an improved simulation model, the books pointed out that the limited features of the earth’s physical capacity have continued to deteriorate and that the time left for solving the problem was growing short. Through model analyses, Dr. Meadows has consistently called for efforts by the international community to form a sustainable society. His work continues to exert a great influence on the world.

Dr. Meadows was born on June 7, 1942. He earned a Ph.D. in Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was Professor of Systems Policy and Director, Institute for Policy and Social Research, University of New Hampshire from 1988 to 2004. Since 2003 he has been President of the Laboratory for Interactive Learning.

Summary of Achievements: Dr. David E. Kuhl

In the late 1950s, Dr. Kuhl developed a novel method of tomographic imaging of the distribution of radioactive isotopes injected into the body. He headed a University of Pennsylvania group that developed a series of single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) devices. The group also made the transaxial section tomography of a living body possible for the first time in the world. They further improved tomographic image quality and proved its clinical efficacy for image separation in brain tumors and stroke.

Dr. Kuhl succeeded in the axial transverse tomographic imaging of humans well before the development of X-ray CT. The technology has had an enormous impact on the development and evolution of various methods of computer tomography, including positron emission tomography (PET).

In the 70s, Dr. Kuhl measured regional cerebral blood volume using the reconstructed tomographic brain images of radioactive isotopes he developed. This was the first time that physiological functions of a living body had been measured three dimensionally and opened a new way to nuclear medicine in the fields of neurophysiology, neuroscience and behavioral science.

Today, PET and SPECT have become indispensable in clinical medicine and their usefulness has been increasing, providing integrated image information along with X-ray CT and MRI. While CT and MRI image data provides geometric information of the affected part, PET image data provides information for evaluating the progression of the affected part.

Taking advantage of these characteristics, tomographic images are used for understanding, diagnosing and early detection of senile dementia and integration disorder as well as cancer, stroke and heart disease, three lifestyle-related diseases most common to Japanese adults. As molecular imaging, radionuclide medical imaging is expected to make great advances with future development in basic and clinical research. Known as the “Father of PET,” Dr. Kuhl has paved the way for the development of modern day nuclear medicine.

Dr. Kuhl was born on October 27, 1929. He obtained an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1986, he has been Professor of Radiology, University of Michigan Medical School.

Notes for Editors:
The Science and Technology Foundation of Japan sent nomination request forms for the 2010 Japan Prize, to qualified people worldwide, including prominent scientists and researchers, who were encouraged to nominate candidates in the two prize fields: “industrial production and production technology” and “biological production and environment.”

The Foundation, formed with Japanese government endorsement, aims to promote advancement of science and technology for the peace and prosperity of mankind. Since 1985, the Foundation has awarded the Japan Prize each year in two fields to scientists and researchers who, regardless of nationality, made substantial contributions to that end. In the last 25 years since its inception, 68 people in 13 countries have received the Japan Prize. For details about the Foundation and its activities, please visit

Media Contacts:
M. Ikezaki / K. Ogura
The Science and Technology Foundation of Japan
Tel: 81-3-5545-0551 Fax: 81-3-5545-0554

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