The United States of America has more Nobel laureates than any other country, and 2009 was a record-breaking year with eleven American laureates. Three of them, Dr. George E. Smith (physics), Dr. Thomas A. Steitz (chemistry) and Dr. Jack W. Szostak (physiology or medicine) were in attendance along with several laureates from earlier years, when it was time to unveil the new names at the Nobel Inscription Ceremony in Theodore Roosevelt Park in New York City.
“New York City isn’t just the artistic and economical capital of the U.S., it’s the intellectual capital as well,” said Commissioner Adrian Benepe at NYC Department of Parks and Recreation in his remarks. “It’s a great privilege to be able to mingle with these people here today. The Nobel Monument is the only monument in New York which honors living people. A total of 317 Americans have now been given the Nobel Prize, 25 of them attended public schools in New York City. It’s important to have this monument here, right by the American Museum of Natural History. Kids can pass by and touch it and say, ‘Someday my name will be there too.’”
The unveiling of the new names was properly carried out by Ambassador of Sweden to the U.S. Jonas Hafström and Ambassador of Norway to the U.S. Wegger Chr. Strommen. In his remarks Ambassador Hafström explained that Nobel had wanted the Peace Prize to be ministered in Norway, which at the time (Nobel died in 1896) was ruled in union with Sweden.
“America is a great, innovative society,” Hafström continued. “We’re here today to honor you, the laureates, but we also want to acknowledge teachers at all New York schools and universities.”
It’s interesting to note that Alfred Nobel himself was tutored at home. Ambassador Wegger Chr. Strommen spoke of the difficulty with the Peace Prize.
“I always await the news of the (Peace Prize) with some fear. It is probably the most difficult and dangerous of the Nobel prizes. We’ve had a number of Americans win it and we need more. We need American peacekeepers in the world. It is not for me to say from what corner they should come, but keep them coming.”
Nobel laureate Dr. Jack W. Szostak (who was awarded the prize in medicine 2009) spoke about the obscurity of some of the winners.
“Their names might not be familiar to most people, but I hope people pass by this monument and are inspired to find out the stories behind the names here. Every name has a story about invention and struggle.”
Szostak himself (born in London in 1952) was awarded the prize jointly with Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.
Szostak said the entire week of Nobel activities in Stockholm was great. His fellow laureate, Thomas A. Steitz (born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1940) added that the Nobel banquet was “unsurpassed.”
“The Swedes,” he said with a smile, “know how to put on a show. Every event during that week began with champagne―it was just great!”
Steitz received the prize in chemistry for his studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.
The monument now has the following names added: Charles K. Kao (physics), Willard S. Boyle (physics), George E. Smith (physics), Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (chemistry), Thomas A. Steitz (chemistry), Elizabeth H. Blackburn (physiology or medicine), Carole W. Greider (physiology or medicine), Jack W. Szostak (physiology or medicine), Barack H. Obama (peace), Elinor Ostrom (economics) and Oliver E. Williamson (economics).
The Nobel Monument was erected in 2003 in a joint project initiated and overseen by the Consulate General of Sweden and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation with the purpose of honoring all American Nobel Laureates as well as the founder of the Nobel Prize, Alfred Nobel. It was designed by renowned Swedish sculptor Sivert Lindblom.
For more information:
Our earlier stories, on Alfred Nobel: www.nordstjernan.com/news/organizations/1710/