November 25, 2013

Fred Kavli, who donated millions to young researchers, dies at 86

He got rich from a business he founded to make electronic sensors used in aviation.

By David Colker
Los Angeles Times

Nobel prizes in science often go to researchers of an advanced age – many are retired by the time the call comes from Oslo saying they’ve won.

Fred Kavli, a Norwegian immigrant who got rich from a business he founded in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley to make electronic sensors used in aviation and other fields, started giving out his own awards in 2008.

But his prizes – accompanied by a scroll, medal and $1 million – were designed to go to younger researchers.

And like the $100 million Kavli had already earmarked for universities, the prizes were designed to further basic research that examines scientific mysteries without a specific goal.

“Basic research is to work at the very edge, the very border of, of knowledge, and move that border forward,” Kavli said in a CBS radio interview in 2005. “You look and look for new secrets, and you don’t know where it’s going to lead you.”

Kavli, 86, died Thursday at his home in Santa Barbara, said the Kavli Foundation. He had contracted cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer, about a year ago, the foundation said.

Kavli also gave money to several nonprofit organizations in the Moorpark area.

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