Monday, October 3, 2011

Nobel prize "awarded" to a deceased scientist and deja vu

****** An Update to the Post Below***************************

The Nobel Prize committee has decided to have this year's prize in Medicine awarded to three, although Dr. Steinman passed away three days ago. According to the reading of the statutes the committee did not "knowingly" award the prize to a deceased individual.

The Nobel Committee issued a press release on the above.
The release stated:

The decision to award the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to the late Ralph Steinman shall remain unchanged, in keeping with the earlier announcement from the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.

The events that have occurred are unique and, to the best of our knowledge, are unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Prize. In light of this, the Board of the Nobel Foundation has held a meeting this afternoon.

An interpretation of the purpose of this rule leads to the conclusion that Ralph Steinman shall be awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, work produced by a person since deceased shall not be given an award. However, the statutes specify that if a person has been awarded a prize and has died before receiving it, the prize may be presented.

Original post, written this morning, is below.

Today, the announcement was made for the first of a series of Nobel prizes for 2011, and, eerily, Rockefeller University announced that Dr. Ralph Steinman, one of the three co-recipients of the 2011 Nobel prize in Medicine, which was announced today, had passed away three days ago on September 30. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer for four years.

Now the Nobel prize committee has to determine what to do, since Nobel prizes are not awarded posthumously.

I have heard that some await the phone call from Stockholm in the wee hours of the morning and it is rather strange that the official announcement was made without first contacting/trying to reach Dr. Steinman.

I recall, back in 1996, when Dr. William Vickrey of Columbia was selected to receive the Nobel prize in Economic Sciences for his work on congestion pricing, work in transportation that I am quite familiar with and have also done research on.

Eerily, he suffered a heart attack three days after the announcement while driving to a conference in Boston. He had lived with his wife in Hastings-on-Hudson, which is next to Yonkers, where I "grew up." The Nobel was accepted on his behalf.