The Lennart Nilsson Award

The Lennart Nilsson Award Foundation was established in 1998 in recognition of the world-renowned Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson and his extraordinary body of work. It's main aim is to promote education, training and research within the medical, biological and engineering sciences through the use of images.

This is achieved through the Lennart Nilsson Award, an international award bestowed annually upon an individual in recognition of outstanding contributions within the realm of scientific photography. Award recipients are people who work in the spirit of Lennart Nilsson, revealing science to the world in beautiful, unique and powerful ways.

The nominees should fulfil the following criteria:

  • Work in the spirit of Lennart Nilsson
  • Make the invisible visible
  • Reveal sciences to the world in beautiful, unique and powerful ways
  • Visualize a scientific break through
  • Image reality in a surprising way

The awarded amount is SEK 100 000 and the prize ceremony will take place in connection with the installation ceremony for new professors at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.

Artistic coloration of the microbiome present in a human gut.
Artistic coloration of the microbiome present in a healthy human gut, containing billions of intestinal bacteria. This image has been created using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in combination with selectively assigning different colors to different bacteria species and structures. Copyrights: © Martin Oeggerli / Micronaut (2015), supported by Pathology, University Hospital Basel, HP Marti, Swiss TPH, and School of Life Sciences, FHNW. Photo: Martin Oeggerli

Prize winner 2022 - Martin Oeggerli

Dr Martin Oeggerli at Micronaut GmBH, Basel, Switzerland, holds a PhD in medical molecular biology. Since 2005, he works as a freelance science photographer, collaborating with scientists in Basel and elsewhere.

Martin Oeggerli uses the scanning electron microscope to image invisibly small organisms and biological structures, which he then painstakingly colors to bring out their inherent beauty. The stunning images help us understand the intricacies of nature’s designs and make biology accessible to everyone.

Motivation:

Dr. Martin Oeggerli is the recipient of the Lennart Nilsson Award 2022 in recognition of his ability to illuminate science and reveal the beauty of the microcosm using the scanning electron microscope.

Photographer Lennart Nilsson Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

About Lennart Nilsson

Born in Strängnäs, Sweden, on August 24, 1922, Lennart Nilsson began his career as a freelance photojournalist. His work spans more than seven decades, beginning in the early 1940s when modern photojournalism made its breakthrough in Sweden.

His early photographic essays, including A Midwife in Lapland (1945), Polar Bear Hunting in Spitzbergen (1947), Congo (1948) and Sweden in Profile (1954) gained international attention through publication in leading photojournalism magazines such as Life, Picture Post and Illustrated.

In the 1950s, Nilsson began experimenting with new photographic techniques including macro- and microphotography, which led to the books, Ants (Myror) and Life in the Sea (Liv i hav).

In the 1960s, the use of specially designed, ultra-slim endoscopes made it possible for Nilsson to capture on film the inner workings of blood vessels and various cavities of the human body. The book A Child is Born (Ett barn blir till) first published in 1965 is undoubtedly Nilsson’s most famous work.

In the 1970s, Nilsson began to use the scanning electron microscope to capture images of the inner workings of the human body. This shift in the focus of his work gave Nilsson the opportunity to work on the premises of Karolinska Institute.

What remains remarkable is the combination of his unending patience to fully explore his subjects, combined with a journalist’s eye, artist’s sense of form and colour, and technician’s inventive skills to maximize available light and capture spectacular images.

In 1976 Lennart Nilsson was awarded an honorary doctorate at Karolinska Institutet. In 2009 he was given the title Professor’s name by the Swedish Government and in 2012 he was awarded the Karolinska Institutet Jubilee Medal (Gold class) for his long-standing and groundbreaking contributions to the development and innovative advancement of medical photography.

Lennart Nilsson passed away in January 2017.