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The Prizes are Coming!

Stay by your phone in the wee hours of the morning of October 3, 2022 (11:30AM Stockholm time) for the call from the Nobel Committee recognizing your tremendous service to all mankind!

And why not you?

Max Theiler received the 1951 Nobel for malaria research, and he was not even a medical doctor. Despite many years of school, he never earned a doctorate in anything.

Another laureate with beginnings that would not predict a path to the Nobel Prize was Har Gobind Khorana, who received his early education outdoors under a tree in a Punjab village of 100 people.

Of course, you do have to be a brainiac. Beyond that, the Nobel laureates are a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The history of the Nobel Prize in medicine is full of fascinating characters, from unapologetic Nazis to dedicated humanitarians who carried out prize-winning research while being resistance fighters or peace activists. Their true stories reveal the depths of both the human strength and depravity of the people who forged medical progress.

The Nobel Prize rules for medicine state that it is to be awarded “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”

When Alfred Nobel crafted his will with these words in 1895, it was an era of unparalleled rate of scientific advances.

The 1800s saw the invention of the stethoscope, isolation of quinine from tree bark to allow mass production of a remedy for malaria, a patented formula for aspirin, development of vaccines for cholera and smallpox, the world’s first blood transfusion, and the use of x-rays to see broken bones.

Nobel, who had invented dynamite and was the world’s first international arms dealer, considered that the Prizes would solidify his legacy as a ‘humanitarian’.

What better way to bring his name to international attention year after year than making press-worthy announcements of the latest and greatest benefits for mankind?

The Nobel selection committee at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden has long since fudged on the ‘preceding year’ stipulation.

In fact, none of the medicine prizes in the last half century has fit this requirement.

The last time we saw a medicine Prize coming close to this rule was the award for DDT discovery.

Paul H. Müller was recognized with the prize in 1948; in the preceding three years, worldwide use of DDT was estimated to have saved over a million lives through eliminating infectious diseases spread by insects. Due to toxicity, DDT was eventually banned in most countries within the next quarter century.

When Peyton Rous was in medical school he caught TB from a cadaver, but he survived to conduct his prize-winning research in 1911. His startling finding that a virus can cause cancer was doubted, and eventually ignored for decades. The value of his work was not recognized with the Prize until 55 years later, in 1966.

Unlike the nominations for the annual Nobel Peace Prize, the Medicine prize nominations are kept secret for 50 years, and winners are not announced until the first week of October.

However, speculations abound, with this year’s rumors all revolving around research done some time ago.

Will the Prize go to Masato Hasegawa and Virginia Man-Yee Lee, discoverers of an improperly folding protein associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?

Or will it recognize Mary-Claire King, who studies the role of genetics in breast and ovarian cancer, especially BRCA1?

In terms of sheer numbers of people who could possibly benefit, how about Stuart Orkin, whose work makes gene therapy possible for sickle cell disease and thalassemia?

Tune in on October 3, 2022 for this year’s announcements!

For the fascinating down-low on past Nobel laureates, join these upcoming author events where Dr. Moira Dolan discusses the strange mix of characters who become Nobel Prize winners.

Join by Zoom link:

Tuesday September 27, 2022 at 7:00 PM CST

Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore

Join by zoom link:

Thursday September 29, 2022 at 7 pm PST

Ada's Technical Books & Café

Author Interview and Discussion

Join in person (ticketed event):

Thursday October 20, 2022 at 7:00 PM CST

International Museum of Surgical Science

1524 N Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60610

Live - Author Discussion


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