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‘Big data’ pioneer wins Millennium Technology Prize

The winner of the 2014 Millennium Technology Prize – considered to be Finland's answer to the Nobel Prizes – was announced at Helsinki's Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art on Wednesday. President Sauli Niinistö will hand out the million-euro award in Helsinki next month.

Professori Stuart Parkin kuvattuna avaraa toimistomaisemaa vasten.
Prof. Stuart Parkin of Stanford University and IBM will receive the award in May. Image: TAF (Technology Academy Finland)

The winner of this year's Millennium Technology Prize is physicist Stuart Parkin, inventor of the GMR read head, a key component of the hard disk drive. This tiny electronic device opened the way to ‘big data’ computer storage capacity, enabling cloud computing, social media and online streaming and sharing of music and films.

Born in England in 1955, Parkin has worked in the US for more than three decades, mostly for IBM but in recent years as a visiting professor at Stanford University as well. Later this year he takes over as director of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Germany.

President Sauli Niinistö will present Parkin with the award in Helsinki on 7 May. The prize is awarded by Technology Academy Finland, which is sponsored by the Finnish state and an array of corporations.

Previous winners of the prize include World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, ethical stem cell pioneer Shinya Yamanaka and Linux mastermind Linus Torvalds – the only Finn to win the award in its first decade.

In a statement, Parkin described it as “one of the most important prizes in the scientific community. It has been awarded to some really great scientists over the past decade. The previous winners have proven to be fantastic scientists whose research has had tremendous impact.”

“I am very humbled and proud to have been awarded the prize, which is a tremendous validation by the scientific community of my work and its impact on the world as a whole,” he added.

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