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Alfred Nobel and His Prizes: From Dynamite to DNA


Abstract and Figures

Alfred Nobel was one of the most successful chemists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and businessmen of the late nineteenth century. In a decision later in life, he rewrote his will to leave virtually all his fortune to establish prizes for persons of any nationality who made the most compelling achievement for the benefit of mankind in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace among nations. The prizes were first awarded in 1901, five years after his death. In considering his choice of prizes, it may be pertinent that he used the principles of chemistry and physics in his inventions and he had a lifelong devotion to science, he suffered and died from severe coronary and cerebral atherosclerosis, and he was a bibliophile, an author, and mingled with the literati of Paris. His interest in harmony among nations may have derived from the effects of the applications of his inventions in warfare ("merchant of death") and his friendship with a leader in the movement to bring peace to nations of Europe. After some controversy, including Nobel's citizenship, the mechanisms to choose the laureates and make four of the awards were developed by a foundation established in Stockholm; the choice of the laureate for promoting harmony among nations was assigned to the Norwegian Storting, another controversy. The Nobel Prizes after 115 years remain the most prestigious of awards. This review describes the man, his foundation, and the prizes with a special commentary on the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Open Access Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal
Abbreviations: DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid; RNA, ribonucleic acid.
Citation: Lichtman MA. Alfred Nobel and His Prizes: From Dynamite to DNA. Rambam Maimonides Med J 2017;8
(3):e0035. Review. doi:10.5041/RMMJ.10311
Copyright: © 2017 Marshall A. Lichtman. This is an open-access article. All its content, except where otherwise noted, is
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly
Acknowledgement: Susan M. Daley prepared the figures and tables for publication.
Conflict of interest: No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.
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Rambam Maimonides Med J | 1 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes: From
Dynamite to DNA
Marshall A. Lichtman, M.D.*
Department of Medicine and the James P. Wilmot Cancer Institute, University of Rochester Medical
Center, Rochester, NY, USA
Alfred Nobel was one of the most successful chemists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and businessmen of the
late nineteenth century. In a decision later in life, he rewrote his will to leave virtually all his fortune to
establish prizes for persons of any nationality who made the most compelling achievement for the benefit of
mankind in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace among nations.
The prizes were first awarded in 1901, five years after his death. In considering his choice of prizes, it may
be pertinent that he used the principles of chemistry and physics in his inventions and he had a lifelong
devotion to science, he suffered and died from severe coronary and cerebral atherosclerosis, and he was a
bibliophile, an author, and mingled with the literati of Paris. His interest in harmony among nations may
have derived from the effects of the applications of his inventions in warfare (“merchant of death”) and his
friendship with a leader in the movement to bring peace to nations of Europe. After some controversy,
including Nobel’s citizenship, the mechanisms to choose the laureates and make four of the awards were
developed by a foundation established in Stockholm; the choice of the laureate for promoting harmony
among nations was assigned to the Norwegian Storting, another controversy. The Nobel Prizes after 115
years remain the most prestigious of awards. This review describes the man, his foundation, and the prizes
with a special commentary on the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
KEY WORDS: Alfred Nobel, Nobel Foundation, Nobel Prizes, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Since the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901,
the recipients have captured the interest of the
world’s scientific, literary, and political communi-
ties. In December, the prize winners in the cate-
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 2 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
gories of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine,
and literature are honored at a ceremony in
Stockholm where they receive their diploma and
medal, and a document indicating the value of their
share of that year’s monetary award and deliver a
lecture describing the significance of the work
leading to the prize. After the awards ceremony they
participate in a lavish banquet hosted by the
Swedish royal family. Simultaneously, the Peace
Prize is awarded by the Royal Norwegian Academy
in Oslo, according to the directives of Alfred
Bernhard Nobel’s will.
No other prize for contributions to humankind
holds the same prestige.1,2 The recipients will be
hailed in their institutes, communities, and coun-
tries. The science laureates will attract the most
promising students to their laboratories. The
laureates will be honored by political leaders. Their
signatures on petitions and newspaper advertise-
ments supporting political and social policy posi-
tions will be given weighty consideration. The
prestige of the prize results in the laureates being
claimed as products of all past institutions with
which they were affiliated, even if the association
had little or nothing to do with the achievements
that led to the prize.
The more prestigious the institution the more
fastidious is their claim to a Nobel Laureate’s
achievement. Harvard, for example, does not make a
claim regarding its alumni who subsequently
received a Nobel Prize, only those who did the work
for which the prize was awarded at Harvard. In
contrast, the University of Rochester named a large,
newly built medical research building for Arthur
Kornberg in 1999, who shared the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine with Severo Ochoa in 1959
for their description of the biological synthesis of
ribonucleic and deoxyribonucleic acid. Kornberg
received his MD degree at the University of
Rochester in 1941. Neither the ideas nor the work
that led to the prize were even conceivable at that
time, given the limited state of knowledge of
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), ribonucleic acid
(RNA), and nucleotide biosynthesis. He was a
medical student. Moreover, Kornberg harbored
longstanding ill-will about his failure to be selected
by Dean George Hoyt Whipple for a year-out
research fellowship between the second and third
year of medical school, which Kornberg attributed to
his being Jewish, as detailed in his autobiography,
For the love of enzymes: The odyssey of a
biochemist.3 In any case, Harvard can be aloof about
laureates who merely passed through its ivied halls;
other institutions’ claims are less fastidious.
Through 2016, 115 years since the initiation of
the prizes, the Nobel Foundation’s list of laureate
affiliations had only one of 911 laureates shown as
affiliated with the University of Rochester as the
research site of his or her work leading to the prize.
That person was George Whipple who shared the
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1934, a
matter to be discussed later in this essay. Another
laureate, Henrik Carl Peter Dam, was at the time of
the receipt of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medi-
cine a senior associate in biochemistry at the Uni-
versity of Rochester.4 He shared the prize in 1943
with the American biochemist Edward Adelbert
Doisy for the discovery of vitamin K. This vitamin is
required for the complete formation of several pro-
teins that participate in normal blood coagulation.
The work was done at the University of Copenhagen
by Dam and his wife. He left Denmark on a lecture
tour in 1940 to the United States and Canada, just
after the Nazis occupied Denmark, and he gained
sanctuary in Rochester at the invitation of Dean
Whipple. The award was made in New York City on
December 10, 1943 by the Swedish Minister,
Wollmar F. Bostroem, with King Gustav V sending
his congratulations; the wartime conditions pre-
vented travel to Stockholm.
The fund that supports the prizes was derived from
virtually all of Alfred Nobel’s assets and the sale of
all properties and business holdings following his
death from a cerebral hemorrhage in San Remo,
Italy on December 10, 1896 at the age of 63 years.59
He also had coronary artery disease and angina
pectoris for which he was treated with nitroglycerin,
the essential chemical in the explosive he developed.
In a letter to a friend he commented on this unusual
coincidence: “Isn’t it the irony of fate that I have
been prescribed nitroglycerin, to be taken internally!
They call it Trinitrin, so as not to scare the chemist
and the public.”10
He was a bachelor. Thus, a small fraction of his
estate’s financial assets was divided among nieces
and nephews, friends, and servants. In a short
statement at the end of his instructions pertaining to
family and friends, he requested that,
… the remaining realizable estate shall be
dealt with in the following way: the capital,
invested in safe securities by my executors,
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 3 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
shall constitute a fund, the interest of which
shall be annually distributed in the form of
prizes to those who, during the preceding
year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit
on mankind. The said interest shall be
divided into five equal parts, which shall be
apportioned as follows: one part to the
person who shall have made the most im-
portant discovery or invention in the field of
physics; one part to the person who shall
have made the most important chemical
discovery or improvement; one part to the
person who shall have made the most
important discovery within the domain of
physiology or medicine; one part to the
person who shall have produced in the field
of literature the most outstanding work of an
idealistic tendency; and one part to the
person who shall have done the most or best
work for fraternity between nations, for the
abolition or reducing of standing armies and
for the holding and promotion of peace
congresses. [The last-mentioned became
known as the Nobel Prize for Peace.] The
prizes for physics and chemistry shall be
awarded by the Swedish Academy of
Sciences; that for physiological or medical
work by the Caroline Institute in Stockholm;
that for literature by the Royal Swedish
Academy in Stockholm, and that for cham-
pions of peace by a committee of five persons
to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is
my express wish that in awarding the prizes
no consideration whatsoever shall be given to
the nationality of the candidates …11
In 1968, as an act commemorating the 300th
anniversary of the founding of the Bank of Sweden,
a sixth prize was established, designated officially as
“The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in
memory of Alfred Nobel.” Although there was
consternation about this intrusion on Nobel’s
intentions, as described in his will, the prize has
come to be accepted functionally by Sweden and the
world as a sixth Nobel Prize. It was first awarded in
1969, and, through 2016, 48 awards to 78 laureates
have been made.
Nobel’s philanthropic interests may have crystal-
lized after reading his own obituary in a Paris news-
paper. Several newspapers in Paris erroneously
reported his death, when it was his brother, Ludvig,
who had died in 1888 in Cannes. Alfred was living in
Paris. The Parisian newspaper mistook Ludvig for
Alfred and reported Alfred’s supposed death with
the headline, Le marchand de la morte est mort
(“The merchant of death is dead”). The obituary and
the media coverage he received during his career
highlighted the manufacturing of explosive chemi-
cals and devices and the development of armaments.
He was portrayed as an arms merchant. The jour-
nalist who mistakenly published his obituary stated
that Nobel “… became rich by finding ways to kill
more people faster than ever before.”5
Nobel was an accomplished chemist, inventor,
entrepreneur, and industrialist. He became one of
the most notable and wealthy men of the late nine-
teenth century (Figure 1). He was born in Stockholm
in 1833. The Nobels were descended from a
seventeenth-century Swedish physician, scientist,
and scholar, Olof Rudbeck the Elder, who became
the Rector of the University of Uppsala.12 Rudbeck’s
daughter married Peter Olai Nobelius. It was from
this marriage that the Nobel family descended.
(Nobel is the shortened form of Nobelius, a
Latinized habitational name from the village of
Immanuel Nobel, Alfred Nobel’s father, planned
to build a canal at Suez, resulting in his interest in
explosives. The methods for such enormous building
projects were those used by the Romans. These
projects would benefit from explosives that were
capable of displacing large amounts of rock. Also,
the Russian military was intrigued by his experi-
ments with explosives and requested that he develop
two systems that had military applications: land
mines to defend army bases or towns, and sea mines
to protect harbors and docked ships. The Russian
Figure 1. Portrait of Alfred Nobel.
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 4 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
army used his products, and he gained economic
security and established his home in St Petersburg.
At age 8 years, Alfred Nobel moved to St
Petersburg with his parents and brothers. He was
tutored in the sciences and the humanities there, but
never matriculated in a school or received a degree.
Alfred’s diverse interests and ingenuity were so
impressive that at age 17 years his father sent him to
France, Germany, Italy, and the United States,
studying chemistry and conferring with chemists
and industrialists to gain technical information that
would enhance their businesses.57 He had devel-
oped a fluency in French, German, Italian, English,
Swedish, and Russian. Alfred returned to St Peters-
burg in 1852, at the age of 19. The Nobel enterprise
grew because of the demand for munitions and
armaments to support Russia’s participation in the
Crimean War, from 1853 to 1856.
Thereafter, the Nobels, collaborating with the
Rothschilds, used Russian oil to end Standard Oil’s
and John D. Rockefeller’s monopoly on the world’s
oil supply.13 Standard Oil had early success as a
result of the conversion of crude oil to kerosene, the
flammable that replaced whale oil for lamps, the
principal form of lighting at the time. The Nobel and
Rothschild families’ development of Russian oil
intruded on Standard Oil’s control of world markets.
The territory around Baku near the Caucasus
Mountains in what is now Azerbaidzhan had been
known as the region of eternal fire. Gas escaping
from superficial underground oil deposits ignited
spontaneously, and this “eternal flame” was the
basis for the Zoroaster religion. The industry devel-
oping in Russia near Baku used innovations in oil
drilling techniques developed in the United States.
In 1873, Robert Nobel, Alfred’s brother, traveled
to Baku’s harbor with a mission to buy walnut wood
for rifle butts, a task given to him by his brother
Ludvig, who was in charge of the Nobel’s armament
business in Russia. Robert, perceiving the potential
of the new oil industry developing in Baku, used the
money to buy a small oil field. Ultimately, Ludvig and
Robert built an enormous oil company (Branobel)
that produced and distributed over half the kerosene
in the Russian Empire. Ludvig and Robert had the
first oil tanker built, commissioned the Zoroaster,
which plied the Caspian Sea (Figure 2).14,15 They also
developed railroad oil tanker cars for transport over
land and built one of the earliest oil pipelines that
facilitated oil distribution. Ludvig Nobel was com-
pared to Rockefeller, and by the beginning of the
twentieth century Russian oil output exceeded that
of the United States. A portion of Alfred Nobel’s
wealth came from the family’s oil profits, principally
the result of Ludvig’s and Robert’s efforts, espe-
Figure 2. The First Oil Tanker, the Zoroaster, Built in 1878.
The hull was built with steel, which became available in the last half of the nineteenth century as a result of Henry
Bessemer’s development of a method to produce large quantities of steel from pig iron. The ship contained iron
tanks to hold the oil. This innovation was the brainchild of Ludvig and Robert Nobel. They developed an oil pipeline
to carry the oil from its source to the ship’s tanks. They developed a system of ballast to stabilize the ship. They
subsequently built additional tankers to carry oil across the Caspian Sea and up the Volga and Don rivers. The ships,
built in Sweden, could reach the Caspian Sea by sailing the Baltic Sea, the canals, and smaller rivers leading to the
Volga river, which entered the Caspian Sea, a route suitable for tanker travel during high water levels after the
winter thaw. These tankers pioneered the method of carrying liquid cargo by ship.
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 5 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
cially the technical and entrepreneurial skill of
In 1863, Alfred returned to Sweden to assist his
father in the study of nitroglycerin, a volatile solu-
tion of nitric and sulfuric acid and gelatin,
discovered in 1847 by Ascanio Sobrero, an Italian
chemist, but not developed into an explosive. The
material was exquisitely sensitive to jarring, and it
could not be handled, manufactured, or transported
safely. Indeed, Alfred’s younger brother, Emil Oskar
Nobel, and a laboratory technician were killed in an
accidental explosion in a Nobel laboratory. Within a
year, Alfred produced a detonator for a large
quantity of nitroglycerin or other explosive sub-
stance too dangerous for handlers to explode
directly. Two years later, in 1865, he patented the
mercury fulminate detonator. This percussion
detonator was used to control the explosion of a
large explosive mass, becoming the basis for most
military and civilian blasting applications; it became
known as the “Nobel lighter.”
Alfred found that kieselguhr (diatomaceous
earth), a clay-like material composed principally of
porous silica, absorbed nitroglycerin nearly to
dryness (a thick paste) and made it insensitive to
vibration, converting an unmanageable and danger-
ous material to one that could be handled with much
less risk. The combination of nitroglycerin and
diatomaceous earth, which Alfred named “Dyna-
mite,” after the Greek word for power, “dunamis,”
was one of his greatest technical achievements.
Dynamite could also be shaped into cylinders that
could be inserted in mining holes to expose deposits.
Dynamite allowed construction projects to be
carried out on a scale previously not possible. Blast-
ing tunnels through mountains for a railway or a
road, digging canals, and clearing navigation bar-
riers from major rivers were some of the civilian
applications of the new explosive. The relevant
patents and licenses resulted in much of the large
fortune that later formed the basis for the estab-
lishment of the Nobel Prizes.
Alfred held 355 patents for inventions in the field
of industrial chemistry. He opened factories devoted
to the manufacture of dynamite and, subsequently,
its derivativesblasting gelatin in 1875, more stable
and powerful than dynamite, and, in 1887, ballistite
composed of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin, a
substitute for black gun powder, the last-mentioned
developed by the Chinese nearly a thousand years
earlier. A variant of this explosive was used as a
solid fuel propellant for rockets in the mid-twentieth
century. He was able to secure a share of the profits
from virtually every factory manufacturing explo-
sives anywhere in the world.
In 1870, Nobel moved his headquarters and
personal laboratory to Paris where he devoted his
time to finding investment partners, plant locations,
and managers for new factories, patent protection,
and other business matters. In 1891 the business
climate in France deteriorated, and Alfred moved
his activities to San Remo, Italy where he worked
until his death in 1896.
Nobel attached no consequence to personal
honors. He trivialized his own receipt of the French
Order, an irony in view of his proposal to use prizes
to recognize and, presumably, to promote out-
standing achievement. He was devoted to literature
and considered leaving the family businesses for a
career as a writer.16 By the time he left Paris for San
Remo, his library contained over 1,500 volumes,
many in their original languages. His collection was
eclectic but was primarily fiction, including the
works of nineteenth-century authors, and classical
works, including the writings of Shakespeare and
works on philosophy, religion, history, and science.
He had a large collection of personal letters. He
wrote numerous poems, the drafts of several novels,
and the script of a play. In Paris he interacted with
the literati and visited literary salons where he met
contemporary writers and had a personal relation-
ship with Victor Hugo, for whom he had particular
He never married; however, he did have a
romance with Sofie Hess, an Austrian woman who
was 23 years younger than he and whom he met in a
shop in 1876 when he was 43. Another Austrian
woman, Bertha Kinsky, became his confidant. She
had responded to an advertisement in an Austrian
newspaper placed by Nobel for a secretary and
housekeeper. Bertha, then 33, traveled to Paris to be
interviewed and was offered and accepted the
position. Nobel became impressed with her intellect
and interest in world affairs. Bertha soon left and
married the son of a couple for whom she had
worked previously and became the Baroness von
Suttner. She and Nobel interacted again in 1887
when she became involved in efforts to bring peace
to the countries of Europe. She published two im-
portant books. The first, Die Waffen nieder, later
published in English under the title Lay down your
arms, was an influential work. She probably contrib-
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 6 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
uted to Nobel’s decision to establish a prize for the
promotion of harmony among countries. She was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 for her
efforts to encourage peaceful relations among the
nations of Europe. In an early version of his will,
Nobel restricted the award of the Peace Prize to a
period of 30 years. It was his opinion that if
harmony among nations was not achieved in that
time-frame, the world could not be saved from con-
tinued irrational, violent, and destructive relation-
ships. His prediction was prescient.
In 1895, a year before his death, Nobel’s final will
directed the establishment of the Nobel Foundation
and a mechanism to select and fund the five Nobel
Prizes. It took five years to make his ideas opera-
tional since he had no discussions about who would
execute these plans and the specific mechanisms
that would be used to select awardees. Nobel’s
decision that Norway, not Sweden, award the Nobel
Peace Prize was offensive to the Swedes, especially
the royal family. Norway was seeking independence
from Sweden, and their relationship was adver-
sarial. The Swedish King interpreted Nobel’s will as
an expression of support for Norway’s break from
Sweden, and there was consideration of rejecting the
will’s instructions to establish the Foundation.
The Nobel Foundation was established to man-
age the funds, supervise the selection of awardees,
and organize the award of the prizes. Ragnar
Sohlman, an engineer working in Nobel’s Karlskoga
laboratory, and the Swedish industrialist Rudolph
Lilljequist were the executors of his will. The po-
tential Nobel heirs, notably two nephews, sons of his
brothers, Robert and Ludvig, initially were dis-
tressed to find that only a very small fraction of the
estate was to be divided between them and that they
were not executors; they considered contesting the
will. Another challenge came from Sofie Hess, who
maintained that she was Alfred’s common-law wife
and deserved inclusion in his bequest. The objec-
tions of the heirs were satisfied when one of the
nephews reconsidered and facilitated discussions
between the executors and the family. This nephew
also helped resolve disputes having to do with the
Russian oil field holdings, permitting an agreement
that was acceptable to all segments of the Nobel
family. Sofie Hess was given a lifetime allowance.
Problematic, initially, was the question of Alfred
Nobel’s citizenship and the country to be the home
of his fortune and Foundation. Nobel had left Swe-
den as a child and was not considered a citizen of
that country nor, indeed, any other. Because of the
international character of his businesses, it was not
clear that Swedish courts had the jurisdiction to
oversee liquidation of his properties and establish
the Foundation. Disagreements arose with the
French over which country should receive his estate.
The determination of which country’s courts should
adjudicate Nobel’s will and estate rested on an
arcane French custom. According to French prac-
tice, a man’s residence was the place he kept his
carriage horses. Nobel had moved his carriage
horses to Sweden before his death. He was declared,
ultimately, a legal resident of Sweden.
Two of the institutions entrusted with selecting
recipients of the scientific prizes, the Royal Swedish
Academy of Sciences and the Royal Caroline
Institute (Karolinska Institutet), initially impeded
the plan when they requested that a portion of the
bequest be used to set up research institutes and to
cover their expenses in selecting awardees.17 These
requirements were met, allowing the implementa-
tion of the Prizes.
After all property was liquidated and debts paid,
the amount available for establishment of the Nobel
Prizes was more than 31 million kronar, equivalent
to about $9 million United States dollars at the time
or nearly $300 million in today’s dollars based on
inflation, but would be considerably greater through
investments. In accordance with the will, the funds
were initially invested in “safe” securities, Swedish
government bonds. This requirement retarded
growth of the fund until its repeal in 1953.
On June 29, 1900, the Nobel Foundation was
approved by King Oscar II and his cabinet. The
Board of Directors of the Foundation consisted of
five members charged with managing the invest-
ments and generating income for the prizes. The
chairman of the Board was appointed by the Swe-
dish King or Queen, and the remaining four mem-
bers were designated by the institutions charged
with selecting awardees.
Initially, the Nobel Foundation was required to
pay taxes on its earnings. This requirement mark-
edly reduced the net yearly income available for the
prizes until 1946 when the Foundation was granted
a permanent tax exemption. The Foundation pub-
lished works about Alfred Nobel and the prizes,
among them “Les Prix Nobel,” an annual series that
includes biographies of the laureates and their
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 7 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
Nobel lectures. These are now accessible on Nobel
Foundation sites on the internet. It also publishes
fact sheets giving the demographics of the prize win-
ners by gender, age, country of origin, and other
variables, also accessible on the internet.
The Foundation also provides funds for the
expenses of the institutions and committees making
selections for the awards, arranges travel for and
organizes the yearly award ceremony, and hosts
scientific symposia. In accordance with the operat-
ing statutes, separate committees were set up by the
Swedish Academy of Science to select awardees for
the prize in physics and in chemistry and by the
Royal Caroline Institute to make the selection for
the prize in physiology or medicine (Table 1). The
Swedish Academy was selected to oversee the
selection of the prize winner for literature “… of an
idealistic tendency.” Apparently, translation from
the Swedish leaves some ambiguity in the interpre-
tation of “idealistic.” The literal interpretation of his
instructions may have led to the omission of writers
of singular note, such as Leo Tolstoy, and the selec-
tion of authors who have passed into obscurity. Two
Nobel Laureates in Literature refused their award:
Boris Pasternak, prevented by the Soviet Union from
accepting it, and Jean-Paul Sartre, who did not
accept awards as a matter of principle. The Nobel
Foundation still recognizes awardees as Nobel Prize
winners in their records whether they accept the
prize or not.
The committees charged with selecting Nobel
Laureates developed a set of procedures. In Septem-
ber of the year preceding the awards, requests for
nominations are sent to members of the Institu-
tions, professors at major Swedish and foreign uni-
versities and research organizations, and previous
winners of the Nobel Prize. The nominations by
those contacted must be made by the end of January
in the year the award is to be made. Numerous
requests for nominations are made, and these result
in many candidates for each prize each year. Self-
nominations are not accepted. The committees have
the challenge of reducing a long list of qualified
candidates to one, two, or, at most, three recipients
for each prize. Evaluating the candidates and their
accomplishments runs from February until the fol-
lowing September. Outside experts are consulted for
advice on the importance of candidates’ achieve-
ments. In the committees’ deliberations, Nobel’s
stipulation that the discovery for which the awards
are given shall have conferred the greatest benefit
on mankind is considered paramount. The recom-
mendations of the committees are submitted to their
institutions for approval. After approval by the
institutions, the candidate for each prize is notified
and announced to the public in October, the month
of Nobel’s birth.
The announcement of the recipients of the Nobel
prizes in October receives more attention from the
worldwide media than the formal award ceremony
in the Stockholm Concert Hall on December 10, the
anniversary of Nobel’s death. The ceremony is
presided over by the King and Queen and is attend-
ed by an audience of as many as 1,000 persons.
Figure 3 depicts a Nobel ceremony with laureates
and royal family in apposition. Figure 4 shows
Table 1. The Nobel Institutions Charged with Selecting the Laureates.
Prize Category
Year First
Royal Swedish Academy of Science
Royal Swedish Academy of Science
Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Assembly at the Royal Caroline
Institute (Karolinska Institutet)*
Norwegian Nobel Committee
The Swedish Academy
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic
Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel**
Royal Swedish Academy of Science
* Composed of 50 professors at the Institute.
** Although not established as a Prize through Nobel’s will and the Nobel Foundation, it has been accepted
functionally as “the Nobel Prize in Economics” and is often referred to in that way by the media.
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 8 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
E. Donnall Thomas receiving the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine in 1990 from His Majesty
Carl XVI Gustaf for his singular contribution to the
development of syngeneic and allogeneic hemato-
poietic stem cell transplantation, commonly referred
to as bone marrow transplantation.
The Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a
unique diploma fashioned by an artist citing the rea-
sons for the prize, and the monetary award. The
medal was struck originally from 23-carat gold.
Since 1980, the medal is struck in 18-carat green
gold with 24-carat gold plating. The medal given for
the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is shown
in Figure 5. The medal for each prize has a different
image on the back relevant to the field of achieve-
ment. The medal for economics has a different image
of Nobel on its face and different text including the
designation of the Bank of Sweden. The monetary
amount distributed with each prize varies and
depends upon the income available from the Nobel
Foundation’s investments. In its first years, the
monetary award was equivalent to approximately 20
years’ salary for the average university professor. As
Figure 4. Edward Donnall Thomas Receives his Medal
and Certificate for the 1990 Nobel Prize for
Physiology and Medicine from His Majesty Carl XVI
Gustaf, King of Sweden.
Thomas received the prize for the development and
clinical application of hematopoietic stem cell
transplantation. The prize was shared with Joseph
Murray for his development of renal transplantation.
Image provided by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center,
Seattle, WA.
Figure 3. The Nobel Prize Ceremony in 2014 with the
Laureates in the Front Row on the Left and the Royal
Family on the Right.
In this year, the Prize in Physiology or Medicine was
shared by John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser, and Edvard I.
Moser “for their discoveries of cells that constitute a
positioning system in the brain.” Photograph taken by
Niklas Elmehed. ©Nobel Media AB. Permission obtained
from the Nobel Foundation.
Figure 5. The Medal for the Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine.
A portrait of Alfred Nobel is on one side of the medal
for each prize. The opposite face is uniquely relevant to
the discipline for which each prize is awarded. This
medal depicts the “genius of medicine” represented as
a woman seated with an open book on her lap. The
woman is filling a bowl of water from a spring to relieve
a suffering girl’s thirst. There is a Latin inscription
above: “Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes”
(“Invention enhances life, which is beautified through
art”) cited from Virgil’s Aeneid. The name of the
laureate is engraved on the plate below the figure, in
this case Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the
structure of DNA. The lower text “REG. UNIVERSITAS
MED. CHIR. CARO.” designates the Royal Caroline
Institute (Karolinska Institutet). Reproduced with
permission of the Nobel Foundation. © ® The Nobel
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 9 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
such, it was a lifetime stipend to permit the awardee
to continue his or her work without concern about
funding. By the 1990s each prize was valued at over
one million dollars.
Following the awards, a lavish banquet is held in
the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall. The size of
the banquet has grown ten-fold since 1901 to
accommodate over 1,000 persons who attend
(Figure 6). The menus and dinner courses, the place
settings of flatware and china, and the logistics of
serving the large assembly of laureates, their family
and friends, the royal family, distinguished guests
including members of the selection committees and
the Nobel Foundation, diplomats, government
officials, and others have been the subject of various
writings, including a monograph.18 Table 2 provides
an example of the elegant menu, in this case for the
dinner in December 2016.
The Nobel Foundation has allowed selection
committees to deviate from Nobel’s stipulation that
the achievement for which the prize is awarded be in
the preceding year. The committees have given
prizes for discoveries made decades before the year
of the award. Penicillin, for example, was discovered
by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and developed into a
drug by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain in the early
1940s, and the award was given to the three in 1945.
Peyton Rous, the oldest awardee, received the prize
in 1966 at age 87 for work reported in 1910, 56 years
earlier, on a transmissible (viral-induced) sarcoma
in fowl. The Nobel Prize, especially in Physiology or
Medicine, has in recent decades more often been
given as an award shared by two or three scientists.
The Nobel Foundation has agreed that no more than
three awardees can share a single prize. Each
awardee receives his or her medal and diploma;
however, the monetary award is divided equally
among them.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, because
of its relationship to human health and well-being,
is the one that can be identified most readily by the
public as meeting Nobel’s intent to recognize the
accomplishment that is a benefit to mankind. The
prize in physiology or medicine has not been award-
ed every year. For example, no prizes were offered
for several years during the First and Second World
War and in several years in which an appropriate
candidate was not identified. From 1901 to 2016,
107 awards have been made to 210 laureates, of
whom 12 were women.20,21 Approximately one-third
of the prizes were given to one laureate, one-third
was shared by two awardees, and one-third was
shared by three awardees. The Nobel Prize in Physi-
ology or Medicine has been awarded without inter-
ruption from 1943 to 2016.
Prior to World War II, Europe was the center of
scientific research, and European scientists received
most of the prizes for physiology or medicine. From
1901 to 1939, only three prizes for physiology or
medicine were won or shared by North Americans:
the first to Canadians, Frederick Banting and John
James Rickard Macleod, for the isolation and clini-
cal use of insulin in 1923; the second to Thomas
Hunt Morgan for his early studies of genetics and
inheritance, pioneering the use of Drosophila
melanogaster (the fruit fly) for genetic research;
and the third in 1934, for the cure of pernicious
anemia, was shared by George Richards Minot,
William Parry Murphy, and George Hoyt Whipple,
to be discussed subsequently in this paper.
Following the Second World War, with the
massive disruption and destruction in Europe and
the establishment of the National Science Founda-
tion and the expansion of the National Institutes of
Health, the United States became the home of the
most generously supported and largest biomedical
Figure 6. The Nobel Prize Banquet in 2013.
In this year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
was shared by James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman,
and Thomas C. Südhof “for their discoveries of
machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport
system in our cells.” Over 1,000 attendees are
accommodated, requiring military precision in
delivering the multicourse dinner in a tasteful and
efficient manner. Photograph taken by Alex Ljungdahl.
©Nobel Media AB. Permission obtained from the Nobel
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 10 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
research establishment in the world. From 1943
until the current time, over 70% of the laureates in
physiology or medicine have been either native or
naturalized US citizens.
In the pre-World War II period, 42 of the 45
laureates in physiology or medicine held a medical
degree, and many practiced medicine. The Nobel
Prize in Physiology or Medicine reflected successes
in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in
conquering diseases caused by microbes and eluci-
dating major physiologic functions of the body.
Robert Koch, Paul Ehrlich, Élie Metchnikoff (one of
only two Russian, more specifically Ukrainian, lau-
reates in physiology or medicine), Jules Bordet, Ivan
Pavlov (the other Russian), and Karl Landsteiner are
only a few of the laureates on the list, which is a
treasure trove of great European physicians of the
late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Following the Second World War, the awards
began to focus on fundamental biochemical or
molecular discoveriesincluding such areas as the
physical and chemical basis of nerve conduction, the
chemical basis of vision, investigations of tumor
viruses, the genetic basis of atherosclerosis, the
action of cell growth factors, the cellular origin of
cancer genes, the fundamentals of bacterial or viral
genetics, DNA replication in bacteria, the structure
of DNA, the biosynthesis of DNA and RNA, pluri-
Table 2. The Nobel Banquet Menu, 2016.19
Charcoal baked langoustine and scallop,
served with nettles, ramson and pickled winter apples
Quail from Södermanland in black garlic and leek ash
with Jerusalem artichoke, preserved wild mushrooms
and jus of roasted chicken skin and mustard seed
Cloud of sudachi fruit, cloudberry sorbet, miso crumbs
and deep-fried rice paper
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs 2006
Piccini Poggio Teo Chianti Classico 2010
Moncaro Tordiruta Passito 2007
Coffee & Nobel Museum Tea Blend
Grönstedts Extra Cognac
Facile Punsch
Stenkulla Brunn Mineral Water
Stadshusrestauranger in collaboration with Chef Sayan Isaksson
as well as Pastry Chef Daniel Roos
The menu is in French with an English and Swedish translation.
© ® The Nobel Foundation.
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 11 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
potential stem cell biology, basic elements of the
immune system, and so onmaking the direct
benefit to mankind demanded by Nobel’s will less
apparent to the lay observer and certainly less
Despite the focus on basic discoveries, at least
two awards in the modern era were made to prac-
ticing physicians: the 1990 prize shared by Edward
Donnall Thomas, an oncologist, and Joseph Edward
Murray, a transplant surgeon, for the development
of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and renal
transplantation, paving the way for liver, heart, lung,
and other solid organ transplantation. The 2005
award was shared by a clinical pathologist, John
Robin Warren, and an internist-gastroenterologist,
Barry James Marshall, for the discovery of Helico-
bacter pylori and its role in gastric inflammation
and peptic ulcer development. Later the organism
was shown to cause gastric carcinoma and gastric
mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma.
One Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was
awarded for what proved to be erroneous research,
the award in 1926 to Johannes Andreas Grib
Fibiger, a Danish professor of pathological anatomy,
who reported the discovery of a worm that caused
cancer of the rat stomach, which he designated
Spiroptera carcinoma. The lesions were later shown
to be hyperplastic, not neoplastic.18 Remarkably,
three reports that were contemporaneous with
Fibiger’s showing that coal tar produced cancer of
the skin of animals; that a putative cancer virus
could transmit fowl tumors; and that Schistosoma
haematobium infection can result in bladder cancer
were overlooked.22 The discovery of a transmissible
agent that caused fowl sarcoma by Peyton Rous was
recognized by the Nobel Foundation approximately
a half century later. Each of these three mechanisms
of cancer initiation has stood the test of time.
A second prize may have been premature, and
certainly controversial, namely the 1949 Nobel Prize
in Physiology or Medicine to António Egas Moniz, a
Portuguese neurologist, for the treatment of severe
psychiatric disorders, especially schizophrenia, by
prefrontal lobotomy.23 The prize was shared with
Walter Rudolf Hess for his neurophysiological
studies of the diencephalon. A notable victim of the
lobotomy procedure was Rosemary Kennedy, sister
of US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, an
attractive, interactive woman, whose functional
state was converted to a vegetative state by the pro-
cedure inflicted on her at the insistence of her father
in 1941.
Today, with a research establishment that spans
the world and with several hundred accomplished
nominees each year, it is very difficult to award the
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to the most
deserving scientist or physician. Indeed, laureates
recognize that their work would not have been pos-
sible without the discoveries of other scientists whose
work had not been recognized by the Foundation.24
A former chairman of the Nobel Foundation, Arne
Tiselius, himself a laureate, in response to a query
about how laureates are selected, indicated that one
cannot in practice apply the principle that the Nobel
Prize should be given to the person who is best; it is
impossible to define who is best. Hence, there is
only one alternative: to try to find a particularly
worthy candidate.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
awarded in 1934 for the treatment of pernicious
anemia holds special significance for the University
of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry,
which was nine years old in 1934, the first post-
Flexnerian medical school established in the United
States, when its founding Dean, George Whipple,
shared the prize for his work on the repair of anemia
in chronically bled dogs and the importance of liver
in the diet to repair the anemia most efficiently.25
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centu-
ry, patients in North America and Europe with an
eventually fatal type of severe anemia were being
described. The affected patients also had severe
neurologic damage, and the outcome of the disease,
although more protracted, was similar to adults with
acute leukemia, invariably resulting in death. The
patients often had pancytopenia, profoundly prolif-
erative and dysplastic marrow cells, and neuro-
logical impairment. In 1908, Richard Cabot of
Boston provided a comprehensive clinical descrip-
tion of the disease and an analysis of 1,200 patients.
He found that survival after onset was 1 to 3 years.26
The anemia was referred to as “pernicious.”
In 1918, Whipple began his experiments on dogs
bled to half normal hemoglobin levels. A basal diet
of canned salmon and bread allowed periodic with-
drawal of blood to maintain the low blood hemo-
globin. If a diet was introduced that contained beef
liver or muscle, hemoglobin production increased.
Whipple and his co-worker, Frieda Robscheit-
Robbins, published a paper in the American Jour-
nal of Physiology on blood regeneration and severe
anemia in the 1920s that highlighted the favorable
influence of liver in the diet on the regeneration of
red blood cells in their dog model of anemia. They
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 12 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
stated: “Liver feeding in these severe anemias
remains the most potent factor for the sustained
production of hemoglobin and red cells.”25 In pub-
lications in 1922 and 1925, Whipple encouraged
physicians to consider dietary factors in the manage-
ment of anemic patients based on his studies in
In 1925, William Murphy had one year earlier
gone into medical practice and was on the staff of
the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He
agreed to work with George Minot, who was a
physician-investigator on the faculty of the Harvard
Medical School and the Huntington Memorial
Hospital, on a project to determine if a form of diet
therapy could help patients with pernicious anemia,
a disease in which Minot had a special interest.
Minot’s view that a dietary factor may play a role in
the development of pernicious anemia grew out of
the notion that “good food makes good blood,”
which was a general theme during the late nine-
teenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1926, Minot
and Murphy astounded the world of medicine with
the announcement at the meeting of the Association
of American Physicians at its annual gathering in
Atlantic City that they had cured the anemia in a
series of 45 patients. These patients had been fed a
special diet that contained up to one-half pound of
lightly cooked beef liver, daily, for several months.
This was an unappetizing diet, especially in patients
seriously ill with loss of appetite and other gastro-
intestinal disturbances. Nevertheless, the effect of
this discovery was not only to reverse the death
sentence for these patients but to encourage and
stimulate research concerning diseases of the blood.
Minot credited Whipple for highlighting the
importance of nutrition as a potential factor in ane-
mic patients and for focusing on liver. In their paper
in the Journal of the American Medical Association
in 1926, Minot and Murphy reported the salutary
effects of liver feeding in pernicious anemia patients.
Minot’s and Murphy’s paper had several references
to Whipple’s and Robscheit-Robbin’s work and one
reference to their own prior work, although none of
these prior reports had anything to do with dietary
treatment of pernicious anemia.27
Some observers felt that Whipple’s role was not
consequential enough to merit his sharing the prize.
In a monograph entitled Anemia in practice: Perni-
cious anemia, written by Murphy and published in
1939, he wrote in his chapter entitled “The Intro-
duction of Liver Therapy” that,
It became our task then to prove the practica-
bility of an idea which had up to this time
received no intensive study or definite confir-
mation. Some years previously Whipple and
his co-workers had demonstrated that liver
had a rather unusual value for the production
of hemoglobin in dogs made anemic by
bleeding. Because this worked entirely with
the production of hemoglobin as opposed to
the maturation of erythrocytes, the latter
being the problem chiefly concerned in
recovery in pernicious anemia, because it was
carried out entirely on animals, rather than
human beings, and because the results of the
study had no bearing upon or reference to
pernicious anemia as observed in mankind,
the study which we were to undertake was of
a pioneering nature. No background evidence
proved that it would be beneficial, except that
a few patients who had been advised by Dr.
Minot to ingest some liver together with red
muscle meat, as part of their diets, had
apparently remained in better health during
short periods of time, than those who had not
used liver.28
Whipple was studying the response of iron
deficiency anemia produced by chronic bleeding of
his dogs, whereas Minot and Murphy were later
shown to be studying vitamin B12 deficiency. Liver
was a rich source of iron and vitamin B12 and, thus,
reversed the iron deficiency anemia in Whipple’s
dogs and the anemia in humans with pernicious
anemia by happenstance and for quite different
reasons. Minot and Murphy did not know the
pathogenesis of pernicious anemia, only that some-
thing in liver could reverse its expression. In the
context of the late 1920s and early 1930s, this
finding justified their selection. They cured a fatal
disease. The reason liver feedings worked was that
the daily requirement for vitamin B12 is minuscule,
approximately one millionth of a gram per day. The
vitamin B12 contained in liver is very large in com-
parison, and sufficient liver was eaten by patients to
provide this minuscule amount of vitamin B12
across the intestinal wall by mass action in the
absence of intrinsic factor in gastric juice, normally
required for vitamin B12’s absorption.
In 1927 and 1928, a Harvard physician-scientist,
William Castle, published a series of ingenious
experiments in humans showing that a missing
factor, secreted by the stomach, which he referred to
as an intrinsic factor, was necessary for the
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Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 13 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
absorption of something from food sources to main-
tain blood production and nervous tissue integrity,
including the brain and spinal cord. The factor in
food was referred to as the extrinsic factor, later
found to be vitamin B12. It was much later deter-
mined that pernicious anemia was an autoimmune
disease in which an autoimmunological attack was
directed at the stomach lining cells leading to gastric
atrophy and the inability to secrete hydrochloric
acid and intrinsic factor, normal constituents of the
gastric juice. Intrinsic factor is required to complex
with vitamin B12 from food sources to permit that
vitamin’s absorption in a specific area of the
terminal small intestines. Some thought Castle
should have shared the Nobel Prize with Minot and
Murphy, not Whipple. Vitamin B12 was charac-
terized in 1948 and intrinsic factor in 1961.
Minot had become a severe diabetic as a young
adult. He was cared for in Boston by Elliot Joslin
with a severely restricted sugar diet. Joslin later
founded the Joslin Clinic, a pioneering institution
for diabetic care. Minot was alive to make this
contribution because of the discovery of insulin in
1922, for which the Nobel Prize in Physiology or
Medicine was awarded in 1923 to Frederick Banting
and John Macleod. The omission of Charles Best,
Banting’s colleague in the laboratory, who was
integral to the research as one of the awardees in
1923, angered Banting. This dispute was yet another
controversy over a Nobel selection decision. Banting
shared his monetary award with Best. Because of the
long and arduous sea voyage to Stockholm, and an
unfamiliar medical environment, a physician accom-
panied Minot to administer insulin, assist in his
rigid low-sugar diet, and to attend to his diabetes,
should it go out of control. This medical support
allowed him to accept the prize in person, generally
a requirement of the Nobel Foundation for receipt of
the prize.
Many deserving scientists have been overlooked,
too numerous to cite. The so-called forty-first chair
is so designated because of the 40 places available in
the French Academy; it represents the deserving
scientists who just missed selection. For a short
period after the establishment of the prizes, the
Nobel Foundation published the names of runners-
up or honorable mentions, but they stopped doing
so. These holders of the forty-first chair include
among them people who should have won the prize,
but did not, in some cases because they died before
their work was recognized as ground-breaking.
Since 1974, a Nobel Prize may not be awarded
posthumously. Only two prizes were awarded
posthumously prior to 1974: one for peace and one
for literature. One prize in physiology or medicine
was made posthumously because the recipient,
Ralph Steinman, working at the Rockefeller Univer-
sity, who discovered the dendritic cell and its func-
tion in the immune system, died a few days before
the announcement of his selection in October 2011,
unbeknownst to the Nobel Foundation. Having
made the announcement not knowing he had died,
the Foundation proceeded to make the award,
posthumously, in that December.
One of the most notable omissions in the Nobel
Prize for Physiology or Medicine was Jonas Salk.29
In 1955 the announcement was made that polio was
conquered as a result of the singular efforts of Salk
to develop, manufacture, and field test the first
vaccine. Polio was a scourge in most industrialized
countries. In the United States, summers were
periods of terror for parents who often kept children
from contact with playmates in camps, swimming
pools, or sharing a water fountain, and applied other
restrictions in the hopes of minimizing viral trans-
mission. The vaccine made unnecessary the need to
warehouse the numerous “iron lungs,” respirators
used to ventilate children and young adults with
“bulbar” polio, previously stored at the ready in
most major hospitals for the summer polio season.
In July 1960 one iron lung remained at the Strong
Memorial Hospital, the University of Rochester
Medical Center; it was used it to manage a young
man with GuillainBarré syndrome with respiratory
muscle paralysis.
Salk’s work was viewed as applied and only a
technical achievement (low-brow) by some of his
influential peers. Perhaps, it was not “high science,”
but who better would have fit Nobel’s desire to give
the prize to someone who benefited mankind in the
previous year? This achievement was among the
most impactful on human health in the last 70 years.
Salk was neither elected to the National Academy of
Sciences nor to the American Philosophical Society,
although the membership of both organizations
included the country’s leading medical investigators.
Some Nobel Prizes in Physics or in Chemistry
honored discoveries that later were seen to be
important basic contributions to medicine. One of
the most important was the initial Nobel Prize in
Physics in 1901 given to Wilhelm Roentgen for his
discovery of a new form of ray, which he called X-
rays, using the mathematician’s symbol “X” for its
Alfred Nobel and His Prizes
Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 14 July 2017 Volume 8 Issue 3 e0035
then unknown properties. Few discoveries have had
such a profound and lasting impact on medical
diagnosis and therapy.
In 1962, Francis Harry Compton Crick, James
Dewey Watson, and Maurice Hugh Frederick
Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or
Medicine for the elucidation of the structure of
DNA. Another controversy in the selection of
awardees surrounded the omission of Rosalind
Franklin whose crystallographic images of DNA
were instrumental in deducing its structure. Her X-
ray diffraction pictures of DNA taken in a different
physical state, not strictly crystalline, established the
helical structure of the molecule and that its
diameter indicated that it must be made of two
intertwined chains. No scientist had imagined DNA
had a multi-chained structure. She also corrected
the erroneous belief that the phosphate-sugar
backbone was in the interior of the molecule with
the bases pointing outward. This information was
essential for Watson and Crick to build their 3-
dimensional model that met the most satisfactory
configuration. Their landmark paper was published
in the journal Nature in April, 1953, immediately
followed in that issue by a paper by Wilkins and
another by Franklin. They summed to confirm the
double helical structure of DNA, each strand bound
together by specific base pairing of nucleotides:
adenine and thymine or cytosine and guanine. The
paper by Watson and Crick was one page long, a
model of brevity in scientific exposition. In
retrospect, their paper may have been the most
important contribution to the life sciences since
Darwin’s book On the origin of species in 1859, 94
years earlier. Yet, it took the Nobel Foundation
nearly a decade to honor its significance, by which
time Franklin had died of ovarian cancer. She had
not been nominated during her lifetime.
In 2013, 51 years after the award, the family of
Crick, by then deceased, sold his Nobel Prize medal
at auction to the CEO of a Chinese biomedical firm
for over two million dollars.30 A seven-page letter by
Crick to his 12-year-old son, explaining his discov-
ery, which pre-dated the publication of the seminal
paper in Nature, was sold to an anonymous buyer
for over six million dollars, exceeding by two-fold
the previous highest price paid for a letter of histor-
ical importance, one written by Abraham Lincoln
opposing slavery.31 A year and a half later, James
Watson sold his Nobel Prize medal for over four
million dollars.32 The proceeds of both sales were
intended to be shared with academic institutions
important to the careers of both scientists.30,32
The remarkable persistence of the Nobel Prize as a
revered indicator of achievement is a testament to
Alfred Nobel’s stipulations and fortune and the
Nobel Foundation’s adherence to the highest stan-
dards of selection. The prizes remain a measure not
only of outstanding individual achievement, but,
secondarily, of the ability of a country to provide the
environment that permits the free and unencum-
bered pursuit of truth. The United States has
benefited by (1) immigration to this country of
outstanding scientists seeking such an environment
in which there is scant religious or political pressure
on research directions and outcome, (2) the whole-
some and fulsome support of research with federal
dollars through the National Science Foundation
and the National Institutes of Health, and (3) the
competitive national process that objectively
determines which proposed research has the most
sophisticated, insightful, and farsighted scientific
ideas for grant awards. Large countries like the
former Soviet Union, the current Russian Federa-
tion, the People’s Republic of China, other Asian and
African countries (e.g. Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan,
and Egypt) with people of genius have been
underrepresented in awards. It may be that societal
and cultural circumstances unfavorable to the
support of strong scientific centers, unfettered
scientific discovery, and space for unpopular or
paradigm-breaking ideas are at play. An analysis has
indicated that cultural and familial factors, such as
the Judaic tradition of scholarship, may play a role
in the development of scientists and writers capable
of achievements that benefit mankind, Nobel’s
quest.33 Over one-fifth of all Nobel laureates and
one-third of all US laureates have been Jewish. Jews
represent 0.2% of the world’s population.33 One can
ponder and lament how many laureates were lost in
Nazi concentration (death) camps among the six
million murdered Jews and their descendants.
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... Over the last century, refineries and petrochemical sector were invented and produced various types of energy and chemicals leading to today's massive supply chain of energy products. Along the way, supply chain efficiency also improved, e.g., from early oil tankers such as Zoroaster with a capacity of fewer than 2000 barrels [3] to today's common Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) with capacities of two million barrels, and the less-frequent but existing Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCC) with capacities over three million barrels [4]. ...
... Over the last few decades, there has been growing efforts to find other innovative approaches for natural gas utilisation including compressed tankers, chemical conversion to liquid products [7][8][9][10], and solidification (e.g., natural gas hydrate) [11]. This brief history is provided to open our discussion on the renewable 3 hydrogen supply chain which has some technical overlaps with that of natural gas, discussed next. ...
Over the last five decades, there have been several phases of interest in the so-called hydrogen economy, stemming from the need for either energy security enhancement or climate change mitigation. None of these phases has been successful in terms of a major market development, mainly due to the lack of cost competitiveness and partially due to technology readiness challenges. Nevertheless, a new phase has begun very recently, which despite holding original objectives has the new motivation to be fully green, i.e. based on renewable energy. This new movement has already initiated bipartisan cooperation of some energy importing countries and those with abundant renewable energy resources and supporting infrastructure. One key challenge in this context is the diversity of pathways for the (national and international) export of non-electricity renewable energy. This poses another challenge, that is the need for an agnostic tool for comparing various supply chain pathways fairly while considering various techno-economic factors such as renewable energy sources, hydrogen production and conversion technologies, transport, and destination markets, along with all associated uncertainties. This paper addresses the above challenge by introducing a probabilistic decision analysis cycle methodology for evaluating various renewable energy supply chain pathways based on the hydrogen vector. The decision support tool is generic and can accommodate any kind of renewable chemical and fuel supply chain option. As a case study, we have investigated eight supply chain options composed of two electrolysers (alkaline and membrane) and four carrier options (compressed hydrogen, liquefied hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia) for export from Australian ports to three destinations in Singapore, Japan, and Germany. The results clearly show the complexity of decision making induced by multiple factors, and that the preferred supply chain combination (electrolyser technology, green energy carrier) in terms of least cost strongly depends on whether the expected levelized cost of hydrogen (ELCOH) or the expected levelized cost of energy (ELCOE) is used as a decision criterion. For instance, with ELCOH for the case study, under the given input parameters, the Ammonia combination with alkaline electrolysers (AE-NH3) becomes the least-cost supply chain option for Singapore, Japan, and Germany with values of 8.60, 8.78 and 9.63 $/kgH2, respectively. This leaves liquid hydrogen (with alkaline electrolysers) as the second-best supply chain route, with ELCOH values of 9.05, 9.39 and 10.70 $/kgH2, respectively. However, with ELCOE, methanol (with alkaline electrolysers) becomes the preferred supply chain path for all destinations, and liquid hydrogen (with alkaline electrolysers) keeps its place as the second-best alternative.
... He was born in Stockholm in 1833 and one of his most recognized achievements was the use of nitroglycerin as an explosive and the way to control it. Before his death, he left virtually all his fortune to establish prizes for people from different nationalities who made the most compelling achievement for the global benefit, in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace among nations [1,2]. ...
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Background: The Nobel Prize of Physiology or Medicine (NPPM) has recognized the work of 222 scientists from different nationalities, from 1901 until 2020. From the total, 186 award researchers used animal models in their projects, and 21 were attributed to scientists and projects directly related to Pharmacology. In the most recent years, genetics is a dominant scientific area, while at the beginning of the 20th century, most of the studies were more related to anatomy, cytology, and physiology. Summary: Mammalian models were used in 144 NPPM projects, being rodents the most used group of species. Moreover, 92 researchers included domestic species in their work. The criteria used to choose the species, the number of animals used and the experimental protocol is always debatable and dependent on the scientific area of the study; however, the 3R's principle can be applied to most scientific fields. Independently of the species, the animal model can be classified in different types and criteria, depending on their ecology, genetics, and mode of action. Key-Messages: The use of animal models in NPPM awarded projects, namely in Pharmacology, illustrates their importance, need and benefit to improve scientific knowledge and create solutions. In the future, with the contribute of technology, it might be possible to refine the use of animal models in pharmacology studies.
... The first and best-known scientific prize is the Nobel Prize (13,14), named after Alfred Bernard Noble, which is awarded in four disciplines to the finest scholars in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and economic and two non-scientific disciplines of literature and peace worldwide. It is the most prestigious award is given to a scientist in the field of sciences (15). ...
... Because of its sweet taste, the term glycerine was coined in 1823 by French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul after the word glukeros that implies sweet in Greek (Nda-Umar et al. 2019). Glycerol was the raw material for manufacturing nitroglycerin, the base component for dynamite, discovered by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in 1863 (Lichtman 2017). Nitroglycerin turned into a significant application during World War I and led to the establishment of the first glycerol-manufacturing plants in Europe, Russia, and the United States (Ciriminna et al. 2014). ...
Rapidly increasing environmental problems and limited fossil resources are motivating the development of sustainable energy options. In terms of this, microbial fuel always fascinated world community, but their implementation has number of hurdles. However, evolvement of metabolic engineering converts these microbes into efficient cell factories for biofuel production. It incorporates the techniques that work in a frame or synchronized manner to modify the existing enzyme and pathway, related to desired product. This chapter gives brief insight into different strategies and techniques conferring metabolic engineering and highlights the challenges on more advanced level.
Honor is the idea of a bond between an individual and a society as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and of personal ethos, that manifests itself as a code of conduct, and has various elements such as valor, chivalry, honesty, and compassion. It is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or institutions such as a family, school, regiment, or nation. The present Research deals with two Biblical verses: "he that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life righteousness and honor" (Proverbs 21:21), and "As snow in summer and as rain in harvest, so honor is not seemly for a fool…" (Proverbs 26:1), evaluating the dimensions of honor in our society and presents the various types of honor. This Research investigates the social aspects of honor, the educational value, honor related to the sports medicine, near the end-of-life decisions, honoring after the death, patients' organ donation, nursing practices, outstanding individuals, the Nobel prize given to the honorable individuals, the cultural honor, the value of honor and violence, male honor, honor related suicide/homicide, family honor, the honor killings, and the attitude towards the honor killings. The research has shown that the awareness of the honor, an exceptional, valuable human behavior, has accompanied humans during the long years of our existence.
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Honor is the idea of a bond between an individual and a society as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and of personal ethos, that manifests itself as a code of conduct, and has various elements such as valor, chivalry, honesty, and compassion. It is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or institutions such as a family, school, regiment, or nation. The present Research deals with two Biblical verses: "he that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life righteousness and honor" (Proverbs 21:21), and "As snow in summer and as rain in harvest, so honor is not seemly for a fool…" (Proverbs 26:1), evaluating the dimensions of honor in our society and presents the various types of honor. This Research investigates the social aspects of honor, the educational value, honor related to the sports medicine, near the end-of-life decisions, honoring after the death, patients' organ donation, nursing practices, outstanding individuals, the Nobel prize given to the honorable individuals, the cultural honor, the value of honor and violence, male honor, honor related suicide/homicide, family honor, the honor killings, and the attitude towards the honor killings. This research has shown that the awareness of the honor, an exceptional, valuable human behavior, has accompanied humans during the long years of our existence.
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There is universal agreement that the Nobel Prizes, given to individuals who have made an extraordinarily notable contribution to humankind in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace, are the most prestigious prizes offered for human achievement. This commentary gives an overview of the basis for Alfred Nobel writing his third will that established the five prizes and includes a discussion of why those five fields were chosen. The commentary includes factors that influenced his choices and contains examples of controversial selections or omissions, especially in the earlier years. A few were errors of omission (e.g. Tolstoy, Tesla, Edison, Best, Gandhi, Franklin), some errors of commission (e.g. Fibiger, Moniz); but, given the complexity of the task, the error rate is small. In some cases, the conclusion that an error had been made is debatable. Such decisions are difficult. Arne Tiselius, a Nobel laureate in chemistry and President of the Nobel Foundation said that one cannot in practice apply the principle that the Nobel Prize should be given to the person who is best; it is impossible to define who is best. Hence, there is only one alternative: to try to find a particularly worthy candidate. This paper includes a brief review of the integration of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, established in 1968, and added to the original five Nobel Prizes; the prize was first awarded in 1969. A short discussion on the absence of a Nobel Prize in mathematics is provided. Adaptations to the development of “big” science, especially in physics, may require the Nobel Foundation to extend its limit of no more than three awardees for the prize in physics and, perhaps, other scientific disciplines.
The procurement of crude oil for refineries consists in purchasing crude oil and having it delivered on time, to ensure the operation of the refineries. This part of the oil supply chain is essential as the characteristics of the crude oil purchased greatly influences the type of products a refinery will yield.One key particularity of the crude oil procurement is the delay that exists between the moment a crude oil shipment is purchases and the moment it is delivered to a refinery. Each refinery works at a monthly scale. We consider that crude oil arrives at the beginning of each month and then a consumption is set for the month. The task of the decision maker is to decide these shipments by making weekly purchase decision every week of the two preceding months. Up until now, the decision-making of crude procurement relied on a tool simulating the operations of a refinery and the resolution of a static deterministic optimization problem.In this thesis, we start by purchasing crude oil for a single month of operation of a refinery. To that end, we propose a model for the crude oil procurement that takes into account delivery delays. Then, we formulate multistage stochastic optimization problems as well as six purchase policies. The assessment of policies is carried out using a Monte-Carlo simulation as well using few historical scenarios. The conclusion is as much about the performances of the policies as it is about possible improvement paths to push the incorporation of uncertainties in purchase policies.Then, we extend the monthly procurement problem to a bimonthly problem. Purchases now target to operation months, and the stocks dynamics inside the refinery must be accounted for. Consequently, we adapt the policies from the monthly procurement problem to the bimonthly version. Numerical tests are still underway.Finally, we propose a procurement problem to manage a refinery during any number of months. While we show that this problem can be expressed as an optimal control problem, we develop a time blocks decomposition for multistage stochastic optimization problems that enables us to formulate a dynamic programming equation at the scale of the month instead of the week.
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Resumo A glicerina, ou glicerol, se apresenta como uma das substâncias químicas mais versáteis comercializada atualmente. Pode ser empregada nas indústrias farmacêuticas, alimentícias, de cosméticos, têxteis, celulósicas, indústria de tabaco, de tintas, lubrificantes, explosivos, entre outras. Em atendimento a essa grande demanda industrial, parte da glicerina hoje é produzida a partir de matérias primas fósseis, mas mais recentemente, pode-se considerar que grande parte da glicerina advém de processos industriais, como o de produção do biodiesel. Esses processos normalmente geram o produto, mas com grande quantidade de impureza e por isso, com baixo valor agregado. Assim, o desenvolvimento de processos para converter esse glicerol de baixo valor em produtos de mais valorizados é uma excelente oportunidade para melhorar a viabilidade econômica para comercialização tanto da glicerina como do próprio biodiesel. Nesse contexto, destaca-se a molécula de 1,3-di-hidroxiacetona (DHA), potencial precursor na síntese de diferentes compostos químicos de grande interesse para as indústrias farmacêutica e de química fina, em particular, como agente bronzeador em produtos para bronzeamento artificial. A DHA pode ser sintetizada quimicamente e/ou bioquimicamente a partir do glicerol, de forma que o intuito do presente trabalho é apresentar aplicações relevantes da glicerina, no que se refere à produção de compostos de alto valor agregado, mais especificamente, para a produção industrial de DHA. Os estudos teóricos que envolvem a produção de DHA utilizando glicerina como substrato, por meio de rotas fermentativas, apontam soluções para se agregar valor ao produto. Vale salientar que os processos biotecnológicos envolvidos nessas conversões não requerem grandes investimentos industriais em energia para fornecimento de altas temperaturas ou pressão aos sistemas reacionais, o que de fato se mostra como uma oportunidade industrial para aproveitamento de glicerina para produção de DHA. Palavras-chave: glicerina, bactérias, dihidroxiacetona, fermentação Abstract Glycerin, or glycerol, presents itself as one of the most versatile chemicals currently commercialized. It can be used in the pharmaceutical, food, cosmetic, textile, cellulosic, tobacco, paint, lubricant, explosive industries, among others. In response to this great industrial demand, part of the glycerin today is produced from fossil raw materials, but more recently, it can be considered that much of the glycerin comes from industrial processes, such as the production of biodiesel. These processes usually generate the product, but with a large amount of impurity and, therefore, with low added value. Thus, the development of processes to convert this low-value glycerol into higher-value products is an excellent opportunity to improve the economic viability for marketing both glycerin and biodiesel itself. In this context, the 1,3-dihydroxyacetone (DHA) molecule stands out, as a known potential precursor in the synthesis of different chemical compounds of great interest for the pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries, in particular, as a tanning agent in tanning products. DHA can be synthesized chemically and / or biochemically from glycerol, so that the purpose of the present work is to present relevant applications of glycerin, with regard to the production of compounds with high benefit, more specifically, for industrial production of DHA. Theoretical studies involving the production of DHA using glycerin as a substrate, through fermentative routes, point out solutions to add value to the product. It is worth noting that the biotechnological processes
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The great number of pages has been written about Alfred Nobel and his Prize in various languages all over the world, but in this article we elucidated only two issues: what kind of person was Alfred Nobel – this phenomenon in experimental chemistry, doctor of philosophy, academician, who had no higher education, the founder of the fund for rewarding with the prize named after him, and what kind of award is the Nobel Prize, how is it awarded and how this Prize influences the trend of science marked with this award. The answer to the question why Nobel Prizes are unique and most prestigious ones may be as follows: they were introduced timely, and they define fundamental historical changes in society. The Nobel Committee activities actually direct scientists, writers and public figures to work throughout the year for the sake of society development, for the sake of progress common to all mankind.
This article reviews the history of the discovery of microbes that increase the risk of cancer of some tissues with a special emphasis on the bacteriumHelicobacter pyloriand the role played by two Australian physicians, neither schooled in research, who had open minds about the shibboleth that mycobacteria (acid-fast organisms) can survive the acid environment of the stomach, but that other pathogenic bacteria cannot. They discovered one of the most important human pathogens,Helicobacter pylori, and showed it capable of inducing severe gastric inflammatory disease. Subsequently, others built on their observations and showed it capable of inducing two gastric neoplasms: carcinoma and lymphoma. The Oncologist 2017;22:542-548.
The clinical observation of the therapeutic effect of liver in patients with the previously uniformly fatal pernicious anemia led to new insights in nutrition, hematopoiesis, and cell biology.
Acknowledgements Author to Reader Introduction 1 A Passion for Discovery First Generation Pioneers 2 Marie Sklodowska Curie 3 Lise Meitner 4 Emmy Noether Second Generation 5 Gerty Radnitz Cori 6 Irene Joliot-Curie 7 Barbara McClintock 8 Maria Goeppert Mayer 9 Rita Levi-montakini 10 Dorothy Crow foot Hodgkin 11 Chien-Shiung Wu 12 Gertrude Elion 13 Rosalind Franklin 14 Rosalyn Sussman Yalow The New Generation 15 Jocelyn Bell Burnell 16 Christiane Nusslein-Volhard Afterword Notes Index
This article provides an overview of the history of psychosurgery as a treatment for psychiatric illnesses. The author reviewed articles describing psychosurgery between 1935 and 1954 in order to summarize surgical techniques, clinical indications for surgery, patient selection, complications, and outcome. Patients were operated on for a wide variety of psychiatric illnesses. Initially, a large number of uncontrolled studies reported considerable therapeutic benefit in at least one-third of the patients operated on. Complications with the early surgical techniques included hemorrhage, seizures, infection, and personality changes. Surgical techniques proliferated in hopes of achieving greater therapeutic benefit while minimizing detrimental side effects. As psychosurgery became more widely accepted, its principal supporters began to use it as a routine therapy. A number of uncontrolled and controlled short-term studies supported the efficacy of psychosurgery, but long-term controlled studies showed mixed results. Psychosurgery was promoted as a treatment for patients who had shown little or no response to less drastic therapies. In the context of an era when no efficacious treatments were available for psychosis, its use was understandable. However, its history illustrates the importance of critical evaluation of new treatments in the context of long-term controlled outcome studies, the natural course of specific illnesses, and an understanding of brain physiology.