The NUS Singapore Prize and Earthshot Prize Winners Announced

The NUS Singapore History Prize is a new literary award to celebrate the work of authors who tell stories that deepen our understanding of Singapore’s past. It is awarded every three years to a book that makes a significant contribution to the knowledge of Singapore’s history. The inaugural prize was awarded in 2018 to the archaeologist John Miksic for his book Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800.

The prize was launched by NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow Kishore Mahbubani, who envisioned it after writing an opinion column in the Straits Times calling for philanthropists to donate money to fund a book prize for Singapore’s history. He was pleasantly surprised when one of the donors, a newly-minted Singapore citizen, responded by offering S$500,000 to create the prize.

In its first year, the prize attracted a wide range of submissions, from historical tomes and books that explore the lives of ordinary people, to novels with a historical slant. The five books shortlisted for the 2024 prize, which is sponsored by the Lee Kuan Yew Heritage Foundation, include academic works and historical fiction that challenge the idea of history as a record of great movers and shakers. They are Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore (2019, available here) by Kwa Chong Guan and Tan Tai Yong; Home Is Where We Are (2020, available here) by Kamaladevi Aravindan; Imperial Creatures (2019, available here) by Timothy P. Barnard; and Sembawang (2020, available here).

During his visit to Singapore on Tuesday, the heir to Britain’s throne joined celebrity guests to walk a green carpet at the theatre of mediacorp to announce the winners of this year’s Earthshot Prize. The prince, who travelled to Singapore solo, was feted by those he met, from the founders of a solar-powered dryer that tackles food waste to scientists who are making electric car batteries more sustainable.

Amid the pomp and ceremony, there was a reminder of the human element of the prize: The five winners were congratulated by Prof Medema himself, who received his prize, including an award certificate, a gold medallion, and a cash prize of S$300,000, from Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, President of Singapore. Prof Medema’s work, described as “unique in the world”, involved water agency PUB and Home Team scientists collaborating to use wastewater-based epidemiology to detect COVID-19 outbreaks early during the pandemic.

The prize was also accompanied by a music component, with the finalists Dmytro Udovychenko, Anna Agafia Egstroem, and Angela Sin Ying Chan performing violin concerts during the awards ceremony. They shared a total of USD $110,000 in prizes, plus concert engagements. In addition, they each receive a trophy made from recycled materials by local designers. The other winners were researchers who developed solutions that address climate change issues. The winners are expected to be announced in October this year.