THE 2014 NOBEL PRIZES IN SCIENCE ARE ANNOUNCED!

Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800's Taken by Gösta Florman.  Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .
Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800’s.  Recorded  by Gösta Florman. Common domain image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg) .

The Nobel Institute has just announced the awardees of this year’s Nobel Prizes in science.  As always, the scientists selected are unquestionably outstanding researchers and contributors to the progress of science.  The Nobel Prize [1] and the Kavli Prize [2] are the very highest honor any scientist can earn.

In this article, I will first present a short introduction to the Nobel Prizes in science, and then I will very briefly summarize the research work of the new 2014 honorees.  For each topic I also will offer some good resources where more information can be found on the internet. 

[1]  Nobel Prizes, 2014.  Nobel Prize facts.  Available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/ .

[2]  The Kavli Prize, 2014.  The Kavli Prize – Science prizes for the future.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.kavliprize.org/about .

The Nobel Prizes in Science

Alfred Nobel (1833 – 1896) is famed as the inventor of dynamite and other explosives, and as a very successful industrialist.  Surprisingly, this Swede had very limited formal schooling.  At his death, he held over 350 patents.  Nobel left much of his substantial fortune to establish the honorific prizes that bear his name; his will directed that the awards in science should be for “those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.  The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. 

At present, separate Prizes are devoted to all of the 3 major branches of science, and also to literature, economic sciences, and peace.  The selection of honorees (Nobel Laureates) is administered by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences,  The Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute (Norway), and the Nobel Foundation.  The Nobel Prizes in science are presented by the royal ruler of Sweden during the large celebration of “Nobel Week” in December; each new Laureate gives a Nobel Lecture and receives a Nobel Medal, a Nobel Diploma, and a document stating their financial award.  As many Laureates have said, receiving a Nobel Prize is a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience; nevertheless, a few scientists actually have won a second Nobel Prize. 

The official history of Alfred Nobel is presented at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/alfred_nobel/ .  General information about the Nobel Prizes, Nobel Prize Week, Nobel Laureates, and the topics for recent awards are presented at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/ .  A listing of all the awardees for each Prize is given at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/ .  Many good materials for science education and modern videos about the Nobel Prize awardees are available on that site.   First, you are required to select one item from very extensive lists of all the yearly Nobel Prizes and Laureates , and then to select one year; lastly, indicate whether you want to see a Nobel Lecture, an  Interview with a specific Laureate (highly recommended!), or a Commentary. 

2014 Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physcs is awarded jointly to 3 professors : Isamu Akasaki, Ph.D. (Meijo University and Nagoya University, Japan), Hiroshi Amano, Ph.D. (Nagoya University, Japan), and, Shuji Nakamura, Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA).  Their determined and detailed research investigations over several decades finally led to several successful ways to create emission of blue light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  That invention then led to the long-sought development of LEDs that emit white light.  There now is worldwide installation of commercial white LEDs as replacements for standard light bulbs, since these new LEDs are brighter, less costly, longer lasting, non-polluting, and  much more efficient.  These practical improvements for everyday life came about through the classical sequence of basic research, applied research, and engineering developments, and, will benefit all humans. 

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics is available on the internet at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2014/press.html , and at:
http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-for-blue-led-s-that-revolutionized-lighting-1.16092 .  

2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded jointly to 3 academic scientists: Eric Betzig, Ph.D. (Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, USA), Stefan W. Hell, Ph.D. (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and  German Cancer Research Center, Hdeidelberg, Germany), and William E. Moerner, Ph.D. (Professorships in Chemistry and Applied Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA).  Working independently, each contributed to enable the difficult technological breakthrough that permits light microscopy to become “nanoscopy” or “super-resolution light microscopy.  Much smaller details now can be seen than was previously possible with standard light microscopes.  This great advance in research instrumentation even allows detection of location and movements of individual protein molecules within living cells.

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2014/popular-chemistryprize2014.pdf , and at: http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-for-microscopy-that-reveals-inner-world-of-cells-1.16097 . 

2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded jointly to 3 university scientists: John O’Keefe, Ph.D. (Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University College London, U.K.), May-Britt Moser, Ph.D. (Centre for Neural Computation, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway), and Edward I. Moser, Ph.D. (Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway).  Their neuroscience research involves experimental studies of the brain, and seeks to define how place and navigation in the spatial environment are sensed, analyzed, and remembered.  Spatial memory is frequently affected in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.  Their investigations show that this sensing of spatial positioning occurs in certain cells within 2 brain locations; these cells talk to each other and together form a map of spatial locations that is recorded in the memory. 

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2014/press.html, and at:
http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-prize-for-decoding-brain=s-sense-of-place-1.16093 .

Concluding Remarks

The Nobel Prizes represent recognition that science, research, and scientists are producing new achievements that benefit all of us in our daily life.  Ordinary adults who are not scientists should be generally aware of the new Nobel Prize awards, and can point these out to any of their children showing interests in science.  For non-scientists, knowing the names of the Laureates is not important, but the nature and meaning of the research advances meriting these awards are significant (i.e., How are the results important to me and others?).  The Nobel Prizes are a recognition of preeminent progress in global science, and everyone is invited to join this celebration!  

Professional scientists should be particularly aware of the new Nobel Laureates in their branch of science.  Only a small handful of scientists ever win a Nobel Prize, and some who clearly deserve one are passed over.  All research scientists should join in celebrating the wonderful achievements of the 2014 Laureates, and also should celebrate their own less-recognized contributions to the progress of science! 

 

 

GO BACK TO HOME PAGE    OR    SCROLL UP TO MENU

                                                            UNDER THE WEBSITE TITLE