Come the first week of October, there is a buzz in the air. Everyone knows its that time of the year when the Nobel Prize winners are announced. Patient anticipation soon gives way to happy cheers and applause as the winners are recognized and the hard work of a lifetime finally pays off.
All thanks to the controversial yet well-known will of Alfred Bernhard Nobel, written on November 27, 1895. Alfred Nobel, who was known for his invention of the dynamite, handed down a fortune to the Nobel Prizes because he wanted to be famous for something nobler than a dynamite. And how did this idea come to his mind?
Well, one fine day, an explosion occurred in Alfred Nobel’s father’s factory and his brother, Emil Oskar Nobel died in the accident. A French newspaper mistook Emil for Alfred and soon the newspapers ran the headlines of Alfred’s death, calling him the “merchant of death”. Alfred was shocked, not to say the least, and disappointed to read his own obituary before his eyes, describing him in terms that were not too kind.
The newspapers soon corrected it, but the Alfred kept the thought alive in his mind, eventually leading him to write his famous will at the age of 62. It aimed at acknowledging and awarding persons who had put in the most excellent work in their fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, and economics.
This year too, the suspense was broken on the dates from 2nd to 9th of October 2017 and the world heard about the names that will forever be jotted down in history as icons of relentless toil and perseverance.
The awards went to :
Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne, for The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017,
“for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”
Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson, for The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017, “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”
Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young, for The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017, “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”
Kazuo Ishiguro, for The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017, “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), for The Nobel Peace Prize 2017
“for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”
Richard H. Thaler, for The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2017, “for his contributions to behavioral economics”
Unlike last year, when the American songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature and stirred a lot of controversies, this year was quite peaceful.
For those of us living in Kerala, it may be interesting to note that Dr. Shobi Veleri, a scientist from Kozhikode initially played a part on the work that led to The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017. This work involved studying the circadian rhythms or the biological clock in the brain of a fruit fly. The circadian clock determines for us whether it is morning or night. Research in this field may also help in the treating of diseases with the help of the circadian clock. Dr. Veleri has worked with Nobel laureate Jeffrey C. Hall and has also interacted with Michael Rosbash while working on this significant enterprise.
The Nobel Prize will always remain in our hearts as a synonym for grit and hard work that has sure rewards. It will live on as an inspiration to our students, an aim for our researchers and a symbol of excellence. Indeed we can say that Alfred Bernhard Nobel has achieved what he wished for when he wrote his will in 1895.