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Millennium Technology Prize awarded to Linus Torvalds and Shinya Yamanaka

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Linus Torvalds and and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka have won Finland's Millennium Technology Prize for their work on the Linux kernel and induced pluripotent stem cells, respectively.

Millennium technology prize
Millennium technology prize

The Millennium Technology Prize, an esteemed science and technology award, has been split between Linus Torvalds for creating the Linux kernel and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka for his work on induced pluripotent stem cells. The €1.2 million (or around $1.5 million) award is given to a person who has made a beneficial impact on mankind's quality-of-life through the use of technology. This marks the first time that the award has been given to two individuals since its inception in 2002.

Torvalds's work on the Linux kernel — which is used in millions of devices from smartphones to the servers that empower them — is a perfect fit for the award. According to the Technology Academy Finland (TAF), the foundation behind the prize, 73,000 man-years have been spent collaboratively improving the kernel via the contributions of millions of developers around the world.

Dr. Yamanaka and his work on induced pluripotent stem cells doesn't have the gravitas that the Linux kernel does today, but this research has the potential to legitimately change the direction of modern medicine. This particular type of stem cell is created by converting a healthy adult stem cell into a pluripotent stem cell, which has the ability to be grown into a wide variety of tissues. The implication is that people with cancer or other intractable diseases could have infected tissue replaced with freshly grown, healthy tissues.

The selection committee for the Millennium Technology Prize bases its nominations on a candidate's impact on human quality-of-life in both the present and the future, as well as how significantly their innovations affect technological change. Even though the prize will be split evenly between the two winners, netting each around $752,000 in prize money, it is still a great honor to be recognized for altering the course of human development for the better. The prize is awarded every two years, so we're looking forward to seeing who the TAF selects in 2014.