Dr. Smith awarded 2012 Tyler Prize with Cal Tech's Dr. John Seinfeld

John Seinfeld, PhD, and Kirk R. Smith, MPH, PhD, recognized for their work to advance understanding of air pollution and its impact on the health of humans and the planet

Los Angeles, CA (March 20, 2012) – The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement honors two experts on air pollution with the 2012 Tyler Prize for their work to advance the scientific understanding of air pollution, and develop solutions to reduce the danger to human health and the impact on climate change.

Kirk R. Smith, MPH, PhD, of the University of California at Berkeley is recognized for his work identifying that household air pollution in developing nations is responsible for nearly two million premature deaths per year, disproportionately among women and children. John H. Seinfeld, PhD, of the California Institute of Technology, is recognized for his groundbreaking work leading to understanding of the origin, chemistry, and evolution of particles in the atmosphere. The fundamental understanding of the physics and chemistry of urban and regional air pollution that emerged from his research served as the basis for action to control the effects of air pollution on public health.

Since its inception in 1973 as one of the world’s first international environmental awards, the Tyler Prize has been the premier award for environmental science, environmental health and energy, given to those who confer great benefit upon humankind through environmental restoration and achievement. The Tyler Prize is administered by the University of Southern California.

“The Tyler Prize is the highest recognition in the field of environmental science,” said Seinfeld. “It’s a humbling honor.”

Previous laureates include Edward O. Wilson, recognized for his early work on the theory of island biogeography; Jane Goodall, selected for her seminal studies on the behavior and ecology of chimpanzees and her impact on wildlife awareness and environmental conservation; Jared Diamond, a renowned author who gave birth to the discipline of conservation biology; and Thomas Lovejoy, a central figure in alerting the world to the critical problem of dwindling tropical forests.

“Professors Smith and Seinfeld are giants in the efforts to understand and reduce the devastating impacts of air pollution,” said Tyler Prize Executive Committee Chair Owen T. Lind, Professor of Biology at Baylor University. “Their respective research has dramatically advanced our understanding of the ways in which air pollution threatens our health as individuals and the health of the planet.” 

This year each Tyler Prize laureate will receive a $100,000 cash prize and a gold medal. The Prize honors exceptional foresight and dedication in the environmental sciences – qualities that mirror the prescience of the Prize’s founders, John and Alice Tyler, who established it while the environmental debate was still in its infancy.