Have you ever received a prize out of doing something? Maybe for having straight A’s at school or being a good public speaker, a ballerina or a rockstar? How about for bringing world peace or for discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease? OK, maybe not world peace or some weird panacea, but you get the point.
Well, getting a Nobel Prize is about being grandiose or outrageous (nerdy?) enough to be given an honor for bringing the “Greatest Benefit to Mankind.” This organization has been awarding great men and women, as well as entities for their outstanding achievements in different fields – physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature or a work for peace since 1895.
But why would this award be named after a guy who basically found a new way to kill dozens of people in one sitting? Yes, my friends, Alfred Nobel was the guy behind the dynamite. He even originally sold it as “Nobel’s Blasting Powder”, which does sound funny if you think about it. (It sounds like a name Wile E. Coyote would think of to trick the Road Runner and blow him to smithereens.)
Anyway, any idea what good does a dynamite bring to the environment or to humans? He left 31 million SEK ($265 million USD today) in his will just to fund the prizes. So, now we know.
This year, the awarding ceremony will be on the 9th December 2017, not that many of you guys care.
What makes the Nobel Awards interesting is that out of the 923 cream of the crops a.k.a. Nobel Laureates, there are still those who are the most unforgettable and memorable from the rest, even after their death. Hence, the “Top 10 Most Popular Nobel Laureates of All Times” (individual and organization) list was born.
Let’s get to know them.
- Mother Theresa
Obviously, she’s nobody’s “Mom”, because Mother Theresa was an Indian Citizen Roman Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity. What makes her extremely popular all over the world is her known charitable works. She devoted 45 years of her life helping the poor, sick, orphaned and dying. That, while running the charity institution she founded herself in 1950, the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, as it has gradually expanded throughout and beyond India.
She died in 1997 and by then, there were 610 missions in 123 countries, including hospices and homes for people with HIV, leprosy, and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; children’s and family counseling programs; orphanages and schools.
It was in 1979 when she won the Nobel Peace Prize. After her death in 1997, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II. She then became a saint and given the title Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta.**
- Bob Dylan
Perhaps the latest awardee in this list, Robert Zimmerman, otherwise known as Bob Dylan in the music industry, won a Nobel Prize in Literature, for basically creating catchy, observant, sharp, and socially-relevant lyrics. Dylan was the first musician to have received the award in that category, and his lyrical genius and longevity have contributed to him wrapping up the Nobel Prize.
Some of Dylan’s lyrical body of work: You that build all the bombs/You that hide behind walls/You that hide behind desks/I just want you to know/I can see through your masks from the song “Masters of War”.
… and As human gods aim for their mark/Make everything from toy guns that spark/To flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark/Easy to see without looking too far/That not much is really sacred, a shot to what he calls ‘society’s false gods’ in the song ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ both from the 1960’s.
Dylan wasn’t around to accept his literature prize but it’s safe to say, he has already made his mark.
- Werner Heisenberg
Does anyone love quantum mechanics? You got Werner Heisenberg to thank for. This guy was given the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932 “for the creation of quantum mechanics.” Quantum mechanics (or quantum physics or quantum theory) “is a branch of physics which is the fundamental theory of nature at the smallest scales of energy levels and subatomic particles”.**
In a way, this stuff completely changed the way we understand reality. The principle of this theory states that “light, electrons, atoms and, indeed, all things act simultaneously like particles and like waves.” He is also known for the “Heisenberg uncertainty principle.”
Published in 1927, it states that “it is impossible to know with perfect accuracy both a particle’s position and its velocity. Know where a particle is, and you have no idea where it is going, or how fast.”
- MLK, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was actually the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. He actually suffered from depression during his adolescent years and felt resentment against white people for the racial humiliation he, his family and neighbors had experienced.
Later, he became known for his role in ending racial discrimination and advancement of civil rights movements through non-violent ways based on his Christian beliefs and an inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi. And that, folks, was the reason he got the Nobel Peace Prize award in 1964.
He is also known for his public speech “I Have A Dream”, which was a call to end racism in the US and to call for civil and economic rights.
To say MLK is an icon is a serious understatement.
- The Red Cross
This organization got the most number of Nobel Peace Prizes of any entity and individuals combined. The International Committee of the Red Cross was awarded Peace Prizes in 1917 and 1944 for its notable contribution in helping people during the First and Second World Wars and a third Peace Prize in 1963 together with the League of Red Cross Societies. It marked their 100th Foundation anniversary.
Red Cross is known for visiting and monitoring the POW camps of all partied during world wars. It has also organized relief assistance not only during wars but also during disasters and calamities. With 97 million volunteers, member and staff worldwide, this organization was mainly founded to protect human life, and health, to ensure respect for human beings and to prevent and alleviate human suffering.*
- Watson, Crick, and Wilkins.
If you like If Gossip Girl, you probably would like to hear Watson, Crick, and Wilkins’ story. (My girlfriend do watch these stuff, FYI.) These three scientists got the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for discovering that DNA is actually shaped like a double-helix. It was Francis Crick and James Watson who first made the discovery and Maurice Wilkins shared the award with them for backing up and supporting their claim with evidence.
What made it sound like a plot from a backstabbing-friend-themed-series is the controversy behind it. This was because a biophysicist named Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkin’s colleague, acquired some images of DNA using crystallography, although this idea was first introduced by Wilkins. Franklin’s images paved way for James Watson and Francis Crick to create their double-helix (or two-strand), model.
Franklin died of cancer in 1958. Her colleague Maurice Wilkins together with Watson and Francis Crick got the honor 4 years after her death but Franklin was not included in the award.
The reason for her exclusion remains unclear although, to nobody’s surprise, politics do creep in in the tightest of spaces.
- Hermann Muller –
Did you know that too much exposure to radiation causes mutations and genetic defects? I didn’t know either. Not until I learned that American biologist Hermann Muller was the one who discovered it. In fact, that’s the reason he was awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1946.
In the 1920s, he spent most of his time investigating the effects of X-Rays on various organisms.** It was in 1926 when he discovered the relationship between radiation exposure and lethal mutation. He actively publicizes the grave, long-term dangers of radiation exposure. When his work was recognized by the Nobel committee, it drew public attention since it happened during the wake of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Until his death, he remained the leading voice campaigning against nuclear weapon testing. At least I’m sure he won’t ever be buddy-buddy with Kim Jong-Un.
- Sir Alexander Fleming & Co.
The story of Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish physician, biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist, teaches us that sometimes, it pays not to be too much of a neat freak. At least in the case of Fleming, untidiness can be a blessing in disguise. (Don’t say that to my uncle!)
He was known as a brilliant researcher but his laboratory was always untidy. Rumor has it that he accidentally ate a bread full of molds then got cured of an infectious disease.
Thus, the discovery of Penicillin. Upon his return after a month-long holiday with his family, he discovered that one of his cultures of staphylococci was contaminated with fungus. That particular culture was destroyed, while the other cultures farther away remained normal. He then grew the mold and found out that it produced a substance that can kill a number of disease-causing bacteria.
Later on, he spent the next couple of decades discovering the anti-bacterial effects of this mold until he developed Penicillin which can cure staph diseases, gonorrhea, scarlet fever, pneumonia, meningitis, diphtheria and other infectious diseases.
- Marie Curie & Co.
Marie Curie was a very notable Nobel Prize awardee because she was the first woman to ever win the award. I’m not playing the gender card here, but seriously. Not only that, she won two Nobel Prizes in two different fields. That also made her the first woman to win two Nobel Prize awards.
The first was with her husband Pierre together with Henri Becquerel, they won Physics Prize in 1903 for discovering radioactivity. The second was in 1911 for Chemistry when she discovered the elements radium and polonium, which she named after her native country, Poland. It’s just sad that she died of aplastic anemia in 1934 at the age of 66, due to her exposure to radiation while doing her scientific research in the course of her radiological work at field hospitals during World War I.
And it looks like the Curies are the Nobel Prize’s favorites. Her daughter Joliot Curie and her husband Frederic also got an award for Chemistry in 1935. Also, the husband of Marie Curie’s second daughter Henry Labouisse won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.
I guess it just runs in the family.
- Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein is, by far, the most popular and most unforgettable scientist in the history of mankind, in my opinion. After all, he promoted the distracted lifestyle image by his fuzzy, uncombed hair that would make Snoop Dogg growl in jealousy.
Before him, only a few people understood that distractedness may equate to being a genius, which is true in Einstein’s case. His mostly known for developing the Theory of Relativity and the E = mc2 or mass-energy equivalence. But he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for discovering the law of photoelectric effect. It was an unbelievable, baffling incident, in which atoms, when bombarded with lights, emitted electrons.
When Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, he did not get his prize until 1923 in which he was a guest speaker at a ceremony. As a child, he was terribly distracted, always forgets his stuff. But Einstein’s story proves that a sloppy look doesn’t always mean untidy – sometimes it means you just have a strong focus on inner thoughts.