“I’m ever so honoured by this prize. I simply couldn’t have achieved what I have without the nurturing environment that the University of Sydney provides for people like me who are perhaps not quite normal or in the mainstream,” said Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

By Ian Horswill


Posted on November 20, 2019

The United Nations will award Dr Karl Kruszelnicki the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularisation of Science at the World Science Forum in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday evening, central European time (5am Thursday, Sydney time).

Dr Kruszelnicki, popularly known as Dr Karl, has been in animated conversation with Australians about science for more than a quarter of a century. The Kalinga Prize is global recognition of Dr Kruszelnicki’s gift for communication and his unquenchable enthusiasm and curiosity for scientific knowledge.

“I’m ever so honoured by this prize. I simply couldn’t have achieved what I have without the nurturing environment that the University of Sydney provides for people like me who are perhaps not quite normal or in the mainstream,” said Dr Karl, the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney.

Dr Karl, UNESCO Kalinga Prize

The Kalinga Prize, which is funded by the Kalinga Foundation, the Indian Government and the Indian State of Orissa, was founded in 1951 as UNESCO’s oldest prize. It rewards exceptional contributions made by individuals in communicating science to society and promoting the popularisation of science.

The inaugural winner was Louis de Broglie, one of the founders of quantum theory. Other winners include Margaret Mead, David Attenborough, Arthur C. Clarke, Bertrand Russell and David Suzuki.

Dr Karl is the first Australian to win the prize.

“I am continually amazed by Dr Karl’s energy and astounded by his encyclopaedic knowledge of science. He personifies the University’s mission to engage with the wider public, to broaden society’s understanding and to break down barriers in the pursuit of knowledge,” said Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence.

“We are fortunate to have Dr Karl as one of our ambassadors and we are proud that the world has now recognised his tremendous talents.”

Dr Karl is probably best known in Australia for his weekly ABC Triple J science talk-back segment, which attracts 750,000 listeners a week and podcast downloads of more than 4 million a year. However, he is also engaged in a wide range of outreach activities, from twice-weekly free Skype broadcasts to Australian and international schools, extensive mentoring, podcasts that include Shirtloads of Science, appearances on television, festival appearances and regular magazine columns.

He has written 45 books and his latest, Dr Karl’s Random Road Trip Through Science, was published in October. It is his first book to include augmented reality.

Dr Karl has won many awards for science communication including the Ig Nobel Prize (2002), Australian Skeptic of The Year (2006) and Member of the Order of Australia (2006). In 2012, he was named as a National Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia. Dr Karl was delighted to have Asteroid 18412 named after him: Asteroid Dr Karl/18412, in 2012.