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On the UNESCO International Day of Light, The Daylight Award announce the 2020 Laureates, including Russell Foster who receives the award for his clinical studies in humans addressing important questions regarding light.

Russell Foster giving a talk

The Daylight Award honours and supports daylight research and daylight in architecture, for the benefit of human health, well-being and the environment. The award places specific emphasis on the interrelation between theory and practice. The Daylight Award was established by the philanthropic foundations and is conferred biennially.  

Russell Foster´s clinical studies in humans address important questions regarding light. How does morning light influence sleep? Why is light at night bad for health? Ultimately the answers to such questions have impacted the medical world in diverse domains including sleep medicine, psychiatry, neurology, geriatrics, ophthalmology, immunology and even cancer medicine. In identifying the neural substrate for a non-visual light pathway to the brain, he has demonstrated the powerful and wide-reaching impact of light on human health
- Judges

Professor Foster is Head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and Head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. In 2015, he received a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to science. The author of nearly 200 scientific publications and four popular science books, he is also a widely sought speaker and lecturer.

His interest is in understanding of how the circadian rhythm and the sleep-wake rhythm are generated and modulated. Professor Foster’s early research involved transplanting a specific group of brain cells from one breed of hamster to another. In doing so, he was able to demonstrate that it is the brain that sets the rhythm of the body clock. His most acclaimed scientific discovery was that the eye contains a specialised cell, a light sensor that aligns the body clock and the sleep-wake rhythm to the day-night cycle. Without this specialised cell, we would drift out of sync with the day. This singular discovery has changed fundamental tenets of knowledge regarding the effects of light on biological systems and human physiology.

In the industrialised modern world, we spend, on average, 90% of our lives inside buildings, and the built environment is a primary moderator of the light to which we are exposed. The architectural community acknowledges Professor Foster’s work that identifies the short and long-term health consequences of light and addresses when and how light ingress should be encouraged, and conversely, when it should be reduced and blacked out.