In the spirit of great names

Historian Jill Lepore and Internet pioneer Paul Ginsparg received prestigious awards in Germany at the end of 2021.

Bringing the past to life: Jill Lepore
Bringing the past to life: Jill Lepore Dari Michele

The prizes have been awarded via video link because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable: Harvard professor Jill Lepore received the Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought, which is funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the City of Bremen, in December 2021. Earlier, in November 2021, Lepore’s fellow countryman Paul Ginsparg became the first person to receive the Einstein Foundation Award for Promoting Quality in Research. Although at first glance the historian Lepore and physicist Ginsparg do not seem to have very much in common, through their work they have made valuable contributions far beyond their respective disciplines.

Jill Lepore: history for the present

Following its great success in America, it is now also one of the most celebrated history books in Germany: These Truths is Jill Lepore’s monumental, roughly 1,000-page history of the United States. This is just one example of the many, highly positive reviews in Germany: Paul Nolte, historian at Freie Universität Berlin, describes These Truths as the “most exciting, most profound, most authoritative, most elegant, in a word, best history of the USA there is at the moment – American history for the new questions of the early 21st century”. According to the jury for the Hannah Arendt Award, Lepore succeeds in presenting a political and holistic description of American history; she does not simply “make ‘mastermind’ judgements about the past, but makes the present more understandable to a broad audience”. As an intellectual, like Arendt, Jill Lepore is not afraid of engaging in public discourse, and she is a popular dialogue partner in both the United States and Germany.

Paul Ginsparg: research for the international community

What decides which issues enter public discourse? Paul Ginsparg has made a decisive contribution to answering this question with regard to science and for that he became the first person to receive the Einstein Foundation Award for Promoting Quality in Research. The Berlin-based Einstein Foundation is committed to the memory of Albert Einstein and his significance for science and society. Paul Ginsparg has brought about changes in both these areas since he founded in 1991. The website archives pre-publications of research findings that have not yet completed peer review by an academic journal. It enables results to be discussed and compared transparently. In addition, researchers can make additional original data, computer simulations and other details freely accessible. As a result, has become a role model for various platforms of this kind in almost all areas of research that are also making a major contribution to combating the coronavirus pandemic.