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Wednesday, January 02, 2008
With Al Gore being named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, it's fitting to take a deeper look at the world's most famous awards for peaceful human achievement. That they were founded by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, is well known. That Jerry Lewis was once nominated for the honor for his muscular dystrophy fundraising is not. (The madcap comic lost out to Amnesty International). Here are 10 other Nobel Prize ironies and oddities:

1. When Alfred Nobel's brother Ludwig died in 1888, French newspapers reported that Alfred had died (One headline reads: "The merchant of death is dead.") some historian believe that newspapers' mistake gave Alfred a sneak peek at his legacy and inspired his desire to be remembered for something other than explosives. Hence the Nobel Prize was born.

2. T he year 1912 was momentous for French scientist Alexis Carrel. He won the Nobel for medicine and he began an experiment in which he took tissue from the heart of a chicken embryo and kept it alive for decades to test how long a warm-blooded cells could be sustained in the laboratory. The news media oversimplified the project, annually marking the birthday of the "chicken heart." The Nobel Laureat died in 1944, and the chicken tissue was euthanized two years later, having lived for 34 years

3. The 1926 Nobel Prize in medicine went to Danish researcher Johannes Fibiger for discovering a cause for cancer. Problem was, Fibiger wrongly concluded that roundworms had caused the tumors in his lab rats. Within a decade of Fibeger's triumph, other research cast serious doubt on his findings, and the embarrassment led Nobel officials to shy away from honoring cancer research for years to come. Fibiger did not live long enough to suffer the same chagrin. He died in 1928 -- of cancer.

4. Mohandas Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize. James Joyce never won the literature prize. Both died before Nobel officials recognized their genius. Until 1974, a person could win the prize posthumously only if he or she died between the Feb. 1 deadline for nominations and the award announcement in October. That's how UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold won the Peace Prize in 1961, a month after dying in a plane crash. But in 1974, the rules became stricter. Only those who died between the announcement in October and the ceremony in December could be posthumous recipients.

5. University of Chicago graduate Edwin Hubble never won the Nobel Prize for physics despite transforming our view view of the universe and providing the first evidence to support the Big Bang theory. Swedish engineer Gustaf Dalen, on the other hand, won the 1912 physics prize for improving gas flow to light house beacons.

6. Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1949 for pioneering the lobotomy. When Moniz developed this treatment to cut nerve connections in the frontal lobe of the brain, there was no other effective treatment for schizophrenia. But lobotomy soon was considered dehumanizing and subject to abuse and drug therapies became far more effective. Today, some forms of "psychosurgery" are performed, but they are quite rare.

7. The most controversial honor in Nobel history? Perhaps the Peace Prize of 1973. Two members of the selection committee resigned to protest the choice of U.S. secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho for crafting a Vietnam War Peace deal. Tho rejected the prize, saying his nation was not yet at peace. Kissinger accepted, but in later years has been much criticized for his role in the secret war in Cambodia and the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Chile. Humorist-songwriter Tom Lehrer once said that "political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobe Prize."

8. An eccentric California optometrist named Robert Graham announced in 1980 that he was forming the Repository for Germinal Choice, which was quickly nicknamed the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank. Graham said he had commitments from three Nobelists, but the publicity chased away two of them, leaving only physicist William Shockley, who advocated paying people whose IQs where less than 100 to be sterilized. No children were born from laureate sperm, and the center closed in 1999.

9. Toni Morrison, the author who was the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize, has expressed regrets that her books aren't credited to Chloe Anthony Wofford. That was her name before shoe started going by "Toni" at Howard University and adopted the name Morrison from her husband, whom she later divorced.

10.When University of Chicago Professor Robert Lucas won the Nobel Prize in economics he gave half of his $1 million prize money to his ex-wife. A clause in their divorce settlement in the lat '80s required him to split the cash if he won before the end of October 1995. Lucas prize came three weeks before he would have been free of the obligation.

SOURCE: History Lesson by Mark Jacob/CHICTRIBUNE foreign/national news editor.mjacob@tribune.com "The Noble Prize: A History of Genuis, Controversy and Prestige" by Burton Feldman, nobelprize.org,pbs.org,improbable.com.Tribune News Services.)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:14 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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