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May 28th, 2008
Santa Barbara industrialist funds major awards to spark scientific research
As a farm boy in Norway, Fred Kavli vowed to one day make an impact on mankind that would last for centuries.
"I was always ambitious," the soft-spoken multimillionaire says with a chuckle as he sits in the living room of his 12,000-square-foot, oceanfront home in Santa Barbara.
Now 80, the retired industrialist is launching what he hopes will be the 21st century's equivalent to the Nobel Prizes. In the process, he's looking to spark a renaissance in basic research in nanoscience, astrophysics and neuroscience, three scientific fields he believes will most help the human race in the future.
Scientists and others say Kavli is unique in having a vision to fund exploratory research unlikely to yield quick results, a personal fortune in the neighborhood of $600 million to finance it, and the entrepreneurial skills to make it happen.
"I don't know if there's anyone else like him," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences. "He's really investing in pure science, [and] he's got a very long-term view."
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