The sidney prize is awarded to a group or individual who has made a significant contribution to Australia’s culture, society or economy. It is a national award and is presented at an awards ceremony at the end of each year. It is a major fundraiser for the University and is generously supported by the Australian Museum.
The Prize is administered by a committee of former students and friends of Sidney Cox, Professor of English at Dartmouth from 1927 to 1952. It is awarded on the recommendation of the committee, which includes Robert Frost ’96 and A. B. Guthrie ’36 as honorary chairmen. The award is worth $100 and consists of a cash prize and an honourarium.
Aside from the Prize itself, there are two supplementary prizes associated with the prize: the Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature and the Overland Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize. The prizes were established in 2007 and are supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation. The winners of the prizes are chosen by a panel of judges and will be published in the Overland Neilma Sidney Magazine.
Several of the prize winners have gone on to become notable authors in their fields. One such writer is Rash, who is a two-time winner of the O. Henry Prize and has written four collections of poetry and six stories.
He was born in Macon, Georgia, and received his PhD from the University of Washington in Seattle. He also served as a research scientist at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for many years.
While working at the LMB, Sid had a chance to meet Sydney Brenner. They shared a mutual love of RNA and had a long conversation about their work together.
As a young RNA researcher, Sid had always been keen to work with Brenner. He admired his method of using NMR to study the structure of RNA and was particularly impressed with Brenner’s ability to communicate complex biochemistry in terms that could be understood by a layperson.
In the early 1960s, Sid read Sydney Brenner’s pioneering work on RNA and had always wanted to be a part of it. He had a chance to do just that during his postdoctoral appointment at Harvard in the late 1960s.
But as much as he loved working with Brenner, there was also a darker side to his time in Boston. When he tried to disprove the idea that tRNA had a catalytic role in ribosomes, he was met with considerable resistance by a number of his colleagues.
Despite these difficulties, Sid remained committed to his work and to his integrity. He believed that science should be conducted objectively, free from any manipulation of facts and evidence to advance personal or political agendas.
This belief helped him maintain his integrity throughout his career. He never backed away from challenging a controversial idea, but was always careful to present his findings in a way that was credible and based on solid experimental evidence. He also resolutely refused to make claims that were overstated.