Wellcome Book Prize unveils 'electric' new trophy design

Wellcome Book Prize, the annual £30,000 prize for literature that engages with the human experience of medicine and medical science, has unveiled this year’s winner trophy: a bespoke creation inspired by the nerve cells of the mind, from London-based artist, Kyle Bean.

Made by injecting a clear acrylic block with a 5 million volt particle accelerator at its centre, the result is a beautiful display of fossilised electricity. The technique was discovered by German physicist Christoph Lichtenberg around 1777 who found a way to make branching electric discharges appear on the interior of an insulating material.

Kyle Bean is an illustrator, director and set designer, renowned for his playful, concept-driven imagery and his reappropriation of everyday materials and handcrafted techniques which often straddle the boundaries between illustration, sculpture and animation. Bean worked on the design in collaboration with Stoneridge Engineering, who issued the charge through the block.

He said: “The concept for the design of the Wellcome Book Prize trophy was to literally represent a spark of imagination. Having spent time researching imagery of nerve cells in the brain, I looked at ways I could incorporate a representation of one into the trophy. The intersection of medical science and art remains one of the most vibrant and creatively inspiring – as shown by the work that the Wellcome Book Prize is doing to spotlight this in literature.”

Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that engage with an aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction.

This year’s judging panel is chaired by acclaimed author, journalist and broadcaster, Baroness Joan Bakewell DBE, and consists of Frances Balkwill OBE, Professor of Cancer Biology at Barts Cancer Institute and an author of science books for children; writer, columnist and salonnière, Damian Barr; award-winning novelist, Tessa Hadley; and award-winning journalist and author, Sathnam Sanghera.

In April last year, Marion Coutts won the 2015 Prize for her critically lauded memoir, The Iceberg. Previous winners of the Prize also include: Andrew Solomon for Far From the Tree: Parents, children and the search for identity in 2014, Thomas Wright for Circulation in 2012, Alice LaPlante for Turn of Mind in 2011, Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in 2010, and Andrea Gillies for Keeper: Living with Nancy – A Journey into Alzheimer’s in 2009.

The shortlist for the Wellcome Book Prize 2016 will be revealed on Monday 14 March this year, with the winner announced at a special ceremony on Monday 25 April. The Prize continues to grow in scale and impact, now supporting events and literary initiatives across the UK via partnerships with the Reading Agency, Booksellers Association, Hay Festival, 5x15, and key retailers country-wide.

For more information, please visit www.wellcomebookprize.org or keep up to date with the Prize on Twitter @wellcomebkprize.