Who is José Maza, Chilean of the Year 2019?

Astrophysicist José Maza has been voted Chilean of the Year 2019 after having won the category of ‘Senior Chilean’ in an online poll organized by Natida. How did Maza earn the admiration of those who voted? Chile Today takes a look.

José Maza, born in Valparaíso in 1948, is an astrophysicist who specializes in the study of supernovae, dark energy, and the expansion of the universe. In 1988, he was a member of a team of researchers who discovered that the universe is expanding increasingly fast. Maza was thus among those who laid the foundations for our understanding of this complex topic. In this way, his research remains at the forefront of how we comprehend the universe and our place in it.

As a prominent Chilean in the world of science and a professor at Universidad de Chile, Maza gained much praise for his work. Recognition came especially through his frequent talks for young people, which inspired many to learn more about space’s intricacies and beauty. In 1999, Maza won the National Award of Exact Sciences, which forms part of the National Award of Chile. In 2018, Maza gave a talk on the colonization of Mars, attracting over 6,000 listeners to the Monumental Crescent of Rancagua thus making it the most popular scientific talk in Chile’s history.

But Maza’s influence reached far beyond the population into the world of science. In 2001, astronomer Rafael Ferrando discovered asteroid 108113 and named it ‘Maza’ in honor of José Maza and his impact on astronomy.

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Maza’s influence led to his nomination in the category ‘Senior Chilean,’ which he then won. Upon reaching the shortlist of winners from each category, including singer Mon Laferte as winner of ‘Chilean of the Arts’ and software designer Valeska Zambra as ‘Young Chilean,’ Maza then got most votes for Natida’s Chilean of the Year 2019. 

According to the Natida’s Facebook page, these awards should “strengthen and recognize national identity everywhere and for everyone, integrating to the world through recognition and building a better future through the exchange of global values and principles.” With this being only the second year that Natida presented this award, probably comparatively few Chileans voted, with those who did likely being younger internet aficionados.

This year’s winner, José Maza, however, could contribute to make the award more popular and produce winners that come from the younger generation.

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