Recognizing Men and Women of Vision

When Carl Johann Sonning, noted Danish writer and editor died in 1937, he left behind a will that created and endowed the Sonning Foundation. Formally established in 1949, this foundation awards the Sonning Prize to a man or a woman who has made outstanding contributions to the advancement of European civilization. Thus, by the nature of its charter, this prize is more all-encompassing of culture and civilization. The Sonning Foundation also funds non-profit cultural activities in support of the restoration and reconstruction of historical buildings, including those used in the service of music.

Since 1971, the Sonning Prize has been awarded every two years, usually on April 19, Mr. Sonning's birthday. Today, it carries a monetary award equivalent to DKK500,000 (about US$75,000 at current rates). To find the person who has greatly advanced the cause of European civilization is a tall order indeed. As such mandates go, the search is conducted in what is perhaps the most orderly and least contentious fashion - by commitee. In this case, the Sonning Commitee, established by the Senate of the University of Copenhagen, each year invites European universities to submit names of prize candidates and from this pool of names, the winner is then selected.

One can always argue about the judges' choices, but there can be no question that each Sonning Prize winner has left his or her own unique indelible mark on civilization - be it in science, literature, the arts, philosophy, or world affairs. In 1950, the first Sonning Prize was an extraordinary award given to Sir Winston Churchill. It was not until 1959 that the prize was awarded on a regular basis. Photo: Churchill

The following is a complete list of Sonning Prize winners. (Click on a name to go to a website that has a reference to the winner.)

1950 Sir Winston Churchill Statesman
1959 Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian, Physician
1960 Bertrand Russell Philosopher
1961 Niels Bohr Physicist
1962 Alvar Aalto Architect
1963 Karl Barth Theologian
1964 Dominique Pire Humanitarian, Religious Leader
1965 Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi Political Visionary
1966 Sir Lawrence Olivier Actor
1967 W.A.Visser´t Hooft Ecumenical Leader
1968 Arthur Koestler Writer
1969 Haldor Laxness Writer
1970 Max Tau Writer
1971 Danilo Dolci Humanitarian
1973 Karl Popper Philosopher
1975 Hannah Arendt Philosopher
1977 Arne Næss Philosopher
1979 Herman Gmeiner Humanitarian
1981 Dario Fo Playwright
1983 Simone de Beauvoir Writer
1985 William Heinesen Writer
1987 Jürgen Habermas Philosopher
1989 Ingmar Bergman Filmmaker
1991 Václav Havel Poet, Statesman
1994 Krzysztof Kieslowski Filmmaker
1996 Günter Grass Writer
1998 Jørn Utzon Architect

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