Ten Incredible Intellectuals, Ten Special Stories

Brooke Gogel | brooke.gogel@yale.edu December 21, 2012

Ten Incredible Intellectuals, Ten Special Stories

When Alfred Nobel’s family discovered in his will that he had dedicated all of his abundant wealth to the establishment of an achievement prize, they were shocked and bitter. Yet, despite this initial controversy and hostility, that money was used to create one of the most prestigious awards in the world: the Nobel Prize. Given to men and women for exceptional achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace, the Nobel Prize honors these individuals’ remarkable contributions to their respective fields with a special medal, a cash award, and a personal diploma. The Nobel Foundation administers the prize each year in Stockholm, Sweden.

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will present the Nobel Laureates with their Nobel Prize Medal, Nobel Prize Diploma, and document confirming cash award on December 10 in Stockholm. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureates will receive their prize in Oslo from the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; King Harald V of Norway will be in attendance. Courtesy of nobelprize.org.

There were 10 Nobel Prize winners this year:

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012
Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland received the Nobel Prize in Physics “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.” Interestingly, the Nobel Laureates independently discovered these new methods of particle control. Their research in quantum physics has contributed toward the construction of a radically new and fast computer.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012
Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka received the Prize in Chemistry “for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors.” It is particularly important to understand how G-protein-coupled receptors function, because nearly half of all medications operate by them. Their research is critical to our comprehension of these receptors.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012
Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering “that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.” Their research has shown that mature cells can be reprogrammed into immature cells that can then develop into any body tissue; this is extremely important for the development of medical therapies and the understanding of different disease mechanisms.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012
Mo Yan — “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary” — received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Having grown up during the Cultural Revolution in China, Mo Yan’s writing is powerful and incorporates historical and social viewpoints.

The Nobel Peace Prize 2012
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union, which “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” Despite the current economic and social strife, the EU has remained committed to its principles and “has helped transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2012
Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley received the Prize in Economic Sciences “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.” Their research involves efficient agent matching, such as organ donors and patients who need transplants. The prizewinners worked individually, but together their independent discoveries have improved market performance.

Alfred Nobel famously said, “Self-respect without the respect of others is like a jewel which will not stand the daylight.” Perhaps it was this acknowledgment of the importance of external approval and respect that persuaded him to create a prize that generates such recognition. Either way, Nobel Prize winners can rest assured that they will acquire the utmost respect others and prevail as jewels which absolutely can endure the light of day.