Academics honoured for 'outstanding contributions'
Two of Ireland's most distinguished thinkers were yesterday awarded the country's highest academic honour in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the world of learning and science.
President Mary McAleese presented the Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals to economic historian Professor Cormac O Grada of University College Dublin and mathematician Professor Samson Shatashvili of Trinity College Dublin (TCD).
Prof O Grada, widely regarded as one of Ireland's foremost intellectuals and internationally accepted as the premier economic historian in his field, received the Academy Gold Medal in the Humanities.
His published works, including his seminal book 'Ireland: A New Economic History', have fundamentally changed the view of such major topics as the Irish Famine, Irish economic history and the history of Ireland's Jewish community.
Prof Shatashvili, a native of Georgia, and now an Irish citizen, is the recipient of the Academy Gold Medal in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
He has made several groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of theoretical and particle physics. He holds the chair of Natural Philosophy at TCD and is the director of its Hamilton Mathematics Institute.
Mrs McAleese said the two recipients were "the kind of people who remind us at this torrid economic juncture, with its heartbreaking litany of bad news, that away from the depressing headlines we have exceptional people whose work is putting Ireland on the international map for all the right reasons.
"Their cutting-edge, truly exciting research is part of the massive reservoir of talent which we have in our universities and institutes of technology," she said.
"Let that be a source of hope and reassurance as we start the climb up the ladder to prosperity after such a rapid slide down the snake of recession."
The gold medals, awarded to two outstanding academics each year, are sponsored by the Higher Education Authority and the Irish Independent.