Linus Torvalds

Linux creator and stem cell scientist jointly awarded tech prize

Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds and stem cell scientist Dr Shinya Yamanaka are the joint winners of the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize.

The Millennium Technology Prize - awarded every two years for innovations that significantly improve the quality of human life, today and in the future - is one of the world’s major technology prizes.

Torvalds was awarded the prize for creating the Linux kernel, a new open source operating system for computers. 73,000 man years have been spent fine-tuning the code.  Today millions use computers, smartphones and digital video recorders that run on Linux. The Technology Academy of Finland, which awards the prize, said Torvalds achievements had a great impact on shared software development, networking and the openness of the web.

Torvalds said he was “really honoured” to have been named a joint recipient of the prize.

“This recognition is particularly important to me given that it's given by the Technology Academy of Finland. Thank you to the International Selection Committee and the TAF Board.

"I'd also like to thank all the people I've worked with, who have helped make the project not only such a technical success, but have made it so fun and interesting," he said.               

Dr Yamanaka was awarded the prize in recognition of his discovery of a new method to develop induced pluripotent stem cells for medical research. Using his method to create stem cells, scientists all over the world are making great strides in research in medical drug testing and biotechnology. This should one day lead to the successful growth of implant tissues for clinical surgery and combating intractable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's.

Dr Yamanaka said he was honoured to receive the prize and was not accepting it on behalf of himself alone.

“The discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells could not have been achieved without tremendous efforts by students and technicians in my laboratory.

"My mission now is to advance iPS cell research in cooperation with many researchers around the world and bring the technology to medicine as early as possible.  I will continue to work hard to achieve our goals of developing new drugs and medical treatments to intractable diseases by using iPS cell technology."

Technology Academy Finland president Dr Ainomaija Haarla said: "The Prize Committee decided, for the first time in the Millennium Technology Prize's ten year history, to award the Grand Prize to two innovators. Dr Shinya Yamanaka's work in stem cell research and Linus Torvalds's work in open source software have transformed their fields and will remain important for generations to come.”

The 1.2m euros prize fund will be split, with both winners receiving 600,000 euros each.     

Further information:

Watch a video of Linus Torvalds discussing Linux.

Watch a video of Dr Shinya Yamanaka explaning induced pluripotent stem cells.          

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