2008 Nobel Prizes awarded

Story Image A couple of weeks ago, Nobel Prizes were awarded to 12 individuals. The Nobel Prize is an international award that is given every year to individuals who have made a discovery that significantly impacts mankind. The awards are given in the fields of Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Literature, and Peace. It is the highest honor an individual can receive in each of these fields. The Nobel Prize was started in 1901 in memory of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish scientist who invented dynamite.

Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland, was awarded the Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve conflicts in various countries over the last 20 years. He helped Namibia get its independence from South Africa, and played a big role in resolving the conflict in Kosovo and its independence from Serbia.

A German scientist, Harald zur Hausen, and two French scientists, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, won the Physiology or Medicine Prize for discoveries of viruses that cause two severe human diseases. Hausen discovered a virus that commonly causes a type of cancer in women, leading to the first ever vaccine against a form of cancer. Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier discovered the “HIV” virus that causes a very serious disease called AIDS. AIDS kills millions of people around the globe, and their work has made it possible to start the fight against this disease.

Three American scientists, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Tsien, received the Chemistry Prize. Shimomura discovered the “protein” that makes jellyfish glow. 30 years later, Chalfie figured out how to use that protein to light up things that happen inside cells. Then Tsien made it possible to have different things light up in different colors. Together, they made it possible to see how brain cells develop, how cancer cells spread, and so many other things we couldn’t see before.

A French writer, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, won the Literature Prize. Jean-Marie has lived in several continents, and brings the richness of cultures and civilizations into his writings. A few of his books have been translated into English – ‘The Interrogation’, ‘Terra Amata’, ‘War’, and others.

An American economist, Paul Krugman, won the Economics Prize for explaining how countries get to buy and sell goods from each other, and why cities get created within countries. Things are cheaper if a country gets good at making a few things but making more of them, and then exchanging the extras for other things they need. Also, things are cheaper if people stay close to where things get made – this causes cities to grow.

Three scientists of Japanese origin, Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi, and Toshihide Maskawa, won the Physics Prize for discovering that nature is not completely balanced at the microscopic level, and that’s the reason Earth, the stars, and the galaxies even exist! They even predicted the existence of three special tiny particles (called quarks) thirty years before it was actually confirmed!