The work of these brilliant scientists has led to fundamental changes in the way we understand the world. Ewine van Dishoeck has illuminated the mechanism behind the birth of stars and solar systems. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer A. Doudna, and Virginijus Siksnys led the way to a powerful new gene editing technique. And A. James Hudspeth, Robert Fettiplace, and Christine Petit have transformed what we know about hearing and hearing loss. Each field will receive a USD $1 million prize and the winners will be celebrated at an upcoming banquet and award ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

This article is part of a special report,“The Biggest Questions in Science,”sponsored byThe Kavli Prize. It was produced independently byScientific AmericanandNatureeditors, who have sole responsibility for all the editorial content.