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Nobel Prizes

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Nobel Prizes

What is the highest honor a scientist can be awarded?

The Nobel Prize, awarded each October in six categories, including physiology or medicine and chemistry.

The Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize is an international award given each year to honor outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and for work in peace. The award is maintained by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden, named after Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), a scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, author and pacifist. At the age of 17, Alfred Nobel spoke five languages fluently. He went on to become an inventor and businessman, and at the time of his death, he had 355 patents worldwide, one which was the patent for dynamite. More importantly, he had started 87 companies world-wide. He had an unprecedented idea for his wealth. See http://www.nobelprize.org for additional information.

In his last will, dated November 27, 1895, Nobel left instructions for the prize. After leaving sums of monies to various friends and relatives, Nobel stated in his will, "The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part to the person who 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. The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical work by the Caroline Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm, and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not."

The first five Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901. In 1969, another prize was added: "The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel."

Many of the contributions of Nobel laureates are discussed throughout these concepts. The contributions from the physiology or medicine are directly related to the life sciences, as are selected contributions from the chemistry prize.

Physiology or Medicine

Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, 1950 to present
Year Laureates Contribution Concept
2012 Sir John B. Gurdon, Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent
2011 Bruce A. Beutler, Jules A. Hoffmann, Ralph M. Steinman for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity (BAB, JAH) and for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity (RMS)
2010 Robert G. Edwards for the development of in vitro fertilization
2009 Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, Jack W. Szostak for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase
2008 Harald zur Hausen, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Luc Montagnier for his discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer (HzH) and for their discovery of human immunodeficiency virus (FB-S, LM)
2007 Mario R. Capecchi, Sir Martin J. Evans, Oliver Smithies for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells The Human Genome Project - Advanced
2006 Andrew Z. Fire, Craig C. Mello for their discovery of RNA interference - gene silencing by double-stranded RNA Types of RNA - Advanced
2005 Barry J. Marshall, J. Robin Warren for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease
2004 Richard Axel, Linda B. Buck for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system
2003 Paul C. Lauterbur, Sir Peter Mansfield for their discoveries concerning magnetic resonance imaging
2002 Sydney Brenner, H. Robert Horvitz, John E. Sulston for their discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death
2001 Leland H. Hartwell, Tim Hunt, Sir Paul M. Nurse for their discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle
2000 Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard, Eric R. Kandel for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system
1999 Günter Blobel for the discovery that proteins have intrinsic signals that govern their transport and localization in the cell
1998 Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro, Ferid Murad for their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system
1997 Stanley B. Prusiner for his discovery of Prions - a new biological principle of infection
1996 Peter C. Doherty, Rolf M. Zinkernagel for their discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell mediated immune defense
1995 Edward B. Lewis, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Eric F. Wieschaus for their discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development Eukaryotic Regulation of Gene Expression - Advanced
1994 Alfred G. Gilman, Martin Rodbell for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells
1993 Richard J. Roberts, Phillip A. Sharp for their discoveries of split genes Gene Cloning - Advanced
1992 Edmond H. Fischer, Edwin G. Krebs for their discoveries concerning reversible protein phosphorylation as a biological regulatory mechanism
1991 Erwin Neher, Bert Sakmann for their discoveries concerning the function of single ion channels in cells
1990 Joseph E. Murray, E. Donnall Thomas for their discoveries concerning organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease
1989 J. Michael Bishop, Harold E. Varmus for their discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes Cancer - Advanced
1988 Sir James W. Black, Gertrude B. Elion, George H. Hitchings for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment
1987 Susumu Tonegawa for his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity
1986 Stanley Cohen, Rita Levi-Montalcini for their discoveries of growth factors
1985 Michael S. Brown, Joseph L. Goldstein for their discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism
1984 Niels K. Jerne, Georges J.F. Köhler, César Milstein for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies
1983 Barbara McClintock for her discovery of mobile genetic elements
1982 Sune K. Bergström, Bengt I. Samuelsson, John R. Vane for their discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances
1981 Roger W. Sperry, David H. Hubel, Torsten N. Wiesel for his discoveries concerning the functional specialization of the cerebral hemispheres (RWS), and for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system (DHH, TNW)
1980 Baruj Benacerraf, Jean Dausset, George D. Snell for their discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions
1979 Allan M. Cormack, Godfrey N. Hounsfield for the development of computer assisted tomography
1978 Werner Arber, Daniel Nathans, Hamilton O. Smith for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics Gene Cloning - Advanced
1977 Roger Guillemin, Andrew V. Schally, Rosalyn Yalow for their discoveries concerning the peptide hormone production of the brain (RG, AVS) and for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones (RY)
1976 Baruch S. Blumberg, D. Carleton Gajdusek for their discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases
1975 David Baltimore, Renato Dulbecco, Howard Martin Temin for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell Viruses: Classification
1974 Albert Claude, Christian de Duve, George E. Palade for their discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell
1973 Karl von Frisch, Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns
1972 Gerald M. Edelman, Rodney R. Porter for their discoveries concerning the chemical structure of antibodies
1971 Earl W. Sutherland, Jr. for his discoveries concerning the mechanisms of the action of hormones
1970 Sir Bernard Katz, Ulf von Euler, Julius Axelrod for their discoveries concerning the humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation
1969 Max Delbrück, Alfred D. Hershey, Salvador E. Luria for their discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses
1968 Robert W. Holley, Har Gobind Khorana, Marshall W. Nirenberg for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis
1967 Ragnar Granit, Haldan Keffer Hartline, George Wald for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye
1966 Peyton Rous, Charles Brenton Huggins for his discovery of tumour-inducing viruses (PR) and for his discoveries concerning hormonal treatment of prostatic cancer (CBH)
1965 François Jacob, André Lwoff, Jacques Monod for their discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis Regulation of Gene Expression - Advanced
1964 Konrad Bloch, Feodor Lynen for their discoveries concerning the mechanism and regulation of the cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism
1963 Sir John Carew Eccles, Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, Andrew Fielding Huxley for their discoveries concerning the ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition in the peripheral and central portions of the nerve cell membrane
1962 Francis Harry Compton Crick, James Dewey Watson, Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material The Double Helix - Advanced
1961 Georg von Békésy for his discoveries of the physical mechanism of stimulation within the cochlea
1960 Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, Peter Brian Medawar for discovery of acquired immunological tolerance
1959 Severo Ochoa, Arthur Kornberg for their discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid
1958 George Wells Beadle, Edward Lawrie Tatum, Joshua Lederberg for their discovery that genes act by regulating definite chemical events (GWB, ELT) and for his discoveries concerning genetic recombination and the organization of the genetic material of bacteria
1957 Daniel Bovet for his discoveries relating to synthetic compounds that inhibit the action of certain body substances, and especially their action on the vascular system and the skeletal muscles
1956 André Frédéric Cournand, Werner Forssmann, Dickinson W. Richards for their discoveries concerning heart catheterization and pathological changes in the circulatory system
1955 Axel Hugo Theodor Theorell for his discoveries concerning the nature and mode of action of oxidation enzymes
1954 John Franklin Enders, Thomas Huckle Weller, Frederick Chapman Robbins for their discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue
1953 Hans Adolf Krebs, Fritz Albert Lipmann for his discovery of the citric acid cycle (HAK) and for his discovery of co-enzyme A and its importance for intermediary metabolism (FAL)
1952 Selman Abraham Waksman for his discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis
1951 Max Theiler for his discoveries concerning yellow fever and how to combat it
1950 Edward Calvin Kendall, Tadeus Reichstein, Philip Showalter Hench for their discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects
Selected Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, 1901-1949
Year Laureates Contribution Concept
1945 Sir Alexander Fleming, Ernst B. Chain, Sir Howard Florey for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases Fungi: Uses
1935 Hans Spemann for his discovery of the organizer effect in embryonic development
1933 Thomas H. Morgan for his discoveries concerning the role played by the chromosome in heredity Chromosomes - Advanced
1905 Robert Koch for his investigations and discoveries in relation to tuberculosis Prokaryotes: Disease
1902 Ronald Ross for his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it Animal-like Protists: Diseases


The following are the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry that have significance to the life sciences.

Year Laureates Contribution Concept
2012 Robert J. Lefkowitz, Brian K. Kobilka for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors
2009 Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz, Ada E. Yonath for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome
2006 Roger D. Kornberg for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription The Chromosome - Advanced
2004 Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko, Irwin Rose for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation
2003 Peter Agre, Roderick MacKinnon for discoveries concerning channels in cell membranes
1997 Paul D. Boyer, John E. Walker, Jens C. Skou for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (PDB, JEW) and for the first discovery of an ion-transporting enzyme, Na + , K + -ATPase (JCS)
1993 Kary B. Mullis, Michael Smith for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method (KBM) and for his fundamental contributions to the establishment of oligonucleotide-based, site-directed mutagenesis and its development for protein studies (MS) The Polymerase Chain Reaction - Advanced
1989 Sidney Altman, Thomas R. Cech for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA
1988 Johann Deisenhofer, Robert Huber, Hartmut Michel for the determination of the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre
1982 Aaron Klug for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes
1980 Paul Berg, Walter Gilbert, Frederick Sanger for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA (PB) and for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids (WG, FS) Biotechnology - Advanced
1978 Peter D. Mitchell for his contribution to the understanding of biological energy transfer through the formulation of the chemiosmotic theory
1972 Christian B. Anfinsen, Stanford Moore, William H. Stein for his work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation (CBA) and for their contribution to the understanding of the connection between chemical structure and catalytic activity of the active centre of the ribonuclease molecule (SM, WHS)
1970 Luis F. Leloir for his discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates
1962 Max Ferdinand Perutz, John Cowdery Kendrew for their studies of the structures of globular proteins
1961 Melvin Calvin for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants
1958 Frederick Sanger for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin
1954 *Linus Carl Pauling for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances
  • Linus Pauling was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.


  • Alfred Nobel : A Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer who used his fortune to posthumously institute the Nobel Prizes.
  • Nobel Prize : A set of annual international awards given in recognition of cultural and scientific advances.

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