How literature builds bridges for science

Literature gives people food for thought. It motivates and inspires, and can even stimulate scientific and social change. As a leading science and technology company, we seek to leverage this potential, for culture can make people more receptive to new research while also increasing its visibility. This is why we award or support four literary prizes around the world, among them the Premio Letterario of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Italy. This award was presented for the 13th time at a ceremony held in Rome in July 2015.

  • Dr. Antonio Messina, Managing Director of our subsidiary in Italia congratulates Maylis de Karangal.

  • A jury of international experts selects the winners evey year.

  • David Quammen - one of the 2015 winners.

  • David Quammen and Maylis de Kerangal were chosen in 2015 for their ability to “impressively convey scientific subjects in literary style."

People have a hard time accepting new ideas; they are skeptical of change and consequently of our research as well. We believe that literature can build goodwill and foster understanding, that it can even push people's mental boundaries.

This is why we launched the Premio Letterario of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Italy in 2003, to recognize authors who do exactly that: use their writing to build bridges between literature and science, thereby making scientific topics more approachable for the general public. In 2015, our international jury chose David Quammen and Maylis de Kerangal for their ability to “impressively convey scientific subjects in literary style”. The winners each received prize money of € 10,000.

At the Premio Letterario award ceremony in Rome, we also devoted time to shining a light on young creative writers. Since 2007, we've been using this auspicious occasion to honor the three winners of the “La scienza narrata” creative writing competition. The initiative is targeted to all high school students in Italy. As part of the program, we also offer creative writing laboratories in four Italian cities, which in 2015 were Rome, Varese, Caserta, and Lucca. In total, 405 adolescents participated in the workshops, weaving scientific topics into original short stories.


literary prizes are awarded by us across the globe. Besides, the Premio Letterario of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Italy, we also sponsor the Johann Heinrich Merck Award of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Germany, the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Kakehashi Award in Japan, and the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Tagore Award in India. In September 2016, we will furthermore be presenting a literary prize in Russia for the first time.

26 awards

along with eight honorable mentions and special prizes have been presented by us under the auspices of the Premio Letterario of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany since 2003.


short stories have been submitted by contestants in the “La scienza narrata” creative writing competition held in Italy since 2006.

Brief bio of the winners

David Quammen
The jury praised U.S. writer and scientific journalist David Quammen as a “lively, well-read author and a brilliant, sharp-minded chronicler with a consistently entertaining style”. He received the award for his book “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic”, in which he describes how quickly AIDS, SARS and Ebola have spread since spilling over from animals to humans. Quammen, born in 1948 in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA), addresses Darwin's theories in his book, showing how concrete the hope is today of conquering pandemics in the future.

Maylis de Kerangal
In her novel “Réparer le vivant” (Mend the Living), Maylis de Kerangal describes a 24-hour race against the clock to save a heart. According to the jury, Kerangal explains the complex topic of organ donations “with sharp insight”. She “gives a voice to the pulsating epic of a heart and explores every corner of the universe with the elegance of great literature”. Kerangal, born in Toulon, France in 1967, is considered one of the most important authors of contemporary French literature.