Did you win a Nobel Prize? You will find out this week as Prizes are awarded starting October 5 and ending October 9 this year. Prizes are given out for Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, and Peace. The prizes were established by the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, in 1895. The category of Economic Sciences was established by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 to honor of Alfred Nobel but is not considered a “Nobel Prize” since it was not in his will.
On Monday, we learned that three virologists earned the prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the virus which is now known as Hepatitis C. Drs. Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice determined that the virus was different from Hepatitis A or B. This made it possible to develop medicines and blood tests that could save millions of lives. While listening to NPR yesterday about this award, I learned that more people are infected and die from Hepatitis C in the world every year than they ever did from HIV. However, for some reason, the virus never got the attention that HIV received. Until now – and it’s good news as 71 million people worldwide live with the chronic infection of the Hep C virus. Interestingly, the drug Remdesivir which is now used to treat severely ill COVID 19 patients, was originally developed as an antiviral agent for Hepatitis C.
Today’s Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for their work involving the Black Hole. According to a press release from nobelprize.org : “The Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 was divided, one half awarded to Roger Penrose "for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity", the other half jointly to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez "for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy."
Perhaps the most famous of the Nobel Prizes is the Nobel Peace Prize. Some of the past winners include: Kofi Annan, Barak Obama, Doctors Without Borders, Nelson Mandela and the 14th Dalai Lama. According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who in the preceding year "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses". This year’s Peace Prize will be awarded on October 9.
The people who win the Nobel prizes are typically very surprised and had no idea they were nominated. This year’s winner, Harvey Alter, was quite angry when he was woken up in the middle of the night by the phone. Guessing it was another robo call, he was very stunned to hear, instead, that he won a Nobel Prize. Michael Houghton heard he won the prize when his friend called to tell him the news. It would’ve been fun to be a fly on the wall for that conversation!
You cannot nominate yourself for a Nobel Prize. But, don’t despair, if you know people in high places, they can nominate you on your behalf. Since this is a library blog, let’s take the prize in Literature for example. As I mentioned before, I like the website howstuffworks.com. They lay out the nomination process for Literature quite nicely: “The literature committee…sends out its own invitations for nominees, but other ‘qualified persons’ are also welcome to submit names for consideration. Qualified persons include professors of literature or linguistics at colleges and universities, and presidents of national literary societies. The winner of the literature prize is selected by the 18 members of the Swedish Academy, who are all prominent Swedish writers, literary scholars and historians.” The Prize in literature will be awarded on October 8.
So, congratulations to all of this year’s Nobel Prize winners, announced and yet-to-be announced. They certainly seem deserving of these prestigious awards and it’s wonderful that they are being acknowledged for all their efforts. Keep up the good work people!