The Nobel Prize is a well-known international award based on the fortune of Alfred Nobel, and regulated by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden.
On November 27, 1895, Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896) signed his will at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris. After his passing, when it was opened and pursued; it caused a huge controversy, giving everyone a drastic shock, as he left much of his remaining estate for the establishment of a prize. However, the will had a clause which stated that Alfred’s fortune should be used to endow “Prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
Popularly known as the man with ethics, Alfred Nobel was the Swedish chemist and engineer by trade. He invented the powerful dynamite and played a vital part in the inventions of synthetic rubber, artificial silk and synthetic leather. Till date, Alfred has more than 350 granted patents. Owing to his love for English literature and poetry, Alfred left his wealth for the establishment of awards for the same genre, including an award in peace.
Since then, the Nobel Prize Committee awards people for their exceptional achievements in chemistry, economics, literature, medicine, peace, and physics. Physiology or medicine was the third prize area that Alfred Nobel had specifically mentioned in his will.
The person who receives the Nobel Prize award is called as a Nobel Laureate. The word “laureate” refers to the term laurel wreath, meaning a symbol of victory and honor. In ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded to the winners of Greece Olympics as a sign of honor for their victory.
Every October, the Nobel Foundation board displays the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Oslo, while the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Economics, Literature, Medicine and Physics are announced in Sweden.
Following mentioned are the outstanding individuals whose inventions in Medicine were highly remarkable in the whole history of Nobel Prize winners.
- 1902: Ronald Ross
(Discovery of parasitic nature of mosquitoes causing Malaria)
Ronald Ross was a multidimensional scientist who was also an epidemiologist, mathematician, sanitarian, editor, novelist, poet, composer, and artist. Served as an Indian Medical Service officer in 1981, Ronald Ross began his study of malaria in 1892 in India. After many years of struggle, in 1897, Ross made his landmark discovery on the parasitic nature of mosquitoes causing Malaria. In his experiment, the mosquitoes were made to feast on a malaria-infected patient four-days prior, which clearly showed the connection of mosquitoes with the propagation of the disease, thereby leading to the successful research and cure for combating the deadly disease of that time.
- 1909: Emil Theodor Kocher
(Inventor of Modern thyroid gland surgery)
In 1850’s, there was not enough advancement in thyroid surgery and it was performed on vital indications only. Most of the deaths were caused due to uncontrollable bleeding and infection during the thyroid surgery. After the operation of the thyroid gland, Emil Kocher observed that many of his patients had symptoms of hypothyroidism which caused a stoppage in natural growth called ascretinism. These observations led him not to remove the whole gland during operation. Emil introduced the modern oral therapy in 1892, which resulted in a rapid decrease in mortality of patients from 40% in 1850 to 2.4% in 1889 and 0.18% in 1898. Still today, his contributions have a great impact on thyroid surgery.
- 1923: Frederick Grant Banting and John James Rickard Macleod
(Cure for Diabetes)
In 1921, together with Banting, Charles Best demonstrated that a substance called trypsin blocks the insulin generation in the pancreas. Scientists knew that the lack of insulin causes diabetes in a normal human body, however could not find the exact method to eliminate the cause. In MacLeod’s laboratory, they treated dogs in such a way that they could not produce the trypsin and dogs’ insulin could be extracted to treat diabetes in humans. In the history of Nobel Prize winners, Frederick Banting is the youngest ever Medicine Laureate, whose age was 32 years at the time of accepting the award.
- 1930: Karl Landsteiner
(Classification of blood groups)
Blood transfusions were known to be unsuccessful in the mid-1900 due to the incompatibility between the donor’s and patient’s blood. Karl Landsteiner revealed that individuals have three blood groups (now as A, B, and O) and each group has a distinct feature based on the presence and absence of a particular set of molecules which are on the surface of Red Blood Cells (RBCs).These discoveries removed the great risk while making a blood transfusion process. Landsteiner’s work related to blood groups, later prompted blood classification and expanded positive transfusion results.
- 1933: Thomas Hunt Morgan
(Discovery of Sex linkages)
An 1890’s Ph.D. holder in Zoology, Thomas Hunt Morgan’s work which was related to Drosophila (the fruit fly) showed that the associations known as coupling and repulsion is, in fact, the two sides of the same phenomenon called as ‘linkage’.He demonstrated the sex linkage of the gene for white eyes in a fruit fly with a male being heterogametic.Further, he elaborated this theory in his book, Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity (1915).This discovery related to chromosomes function in heredity awarded him the Nobel Prize in 1933.
- 1945: Sir Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain and, Sir Howard Walter Florey
(Discovery of Penicillin)
Sir Alexander Fleming used to put a bowl filled with bacteria besides him while working at the desk. He saw that, along with the bacteria, there was a fungal mold growing around it which stopped the growth of bacteria. He concluded that the bacterial growth was disturbed by a substance in the fungal mold, and that substance was Penicillin. However, it was precarious and unstable, which needed to be obtained in a pure form. In the mid-1940’s, Chain and Florey with their colleagues succeeded in producing a pure form of penicillin and today, it’s the first and still one of the most widely used antibiotic agents.
- 1990: Joseph E. Murray and E. Donnall Thomas
(Invented modern method of Organ transplantation)
Platelets, which form in the bone marrow, shield the body from ailments. Malfunctioning of bone marrow cells can lead to serious diseases such as Leukaemia. During the 1950’s, Donnall Thomas built up a procedure to replace damaged bone marrow cells by means of blood transfusion.
In 1954, Joseph Murray created a strategy utilizing radiotherapy and immunosuppressant to cease the body’s habit of rejecting the transplanted organs. Because of such a huge contribution in the organ transplantation, both the scientist shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990.
- 2003: Paul C. Lauterbur and Sir Peter Mansfield
(Discovery of MRI)
Paul Lauterbur and Sir Mansfield revealed that the protons and neutron in the atomic nucleus work like small spinning magnets and their magnetic field can be disturbed by radio waves of certain frequencies. In 1970, they introduced the phenomenon to create images of the human body’s interior by presenting variations in magnetic field between protons and neutrons.The analysts shared the Nobel Prize for their discoveries concerning magnetic resonance imaging.
- 2008: Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Luc Montagnier and, Haraldzur Hausen
(Discovery of HIV)
Researchers characterize the genomes that contain ribonucleic acid (RNA) as Retroviruses. In 1983, Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier found a retrovirus which attacks lymphocytes- a type of blood cell which is extremely important for the body’s immune system, and was later named as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This essential discovery prompted enhanced medications for those determined to have AIDS. Concurrently, Hausen exhibited that the papillomavirus formed by malfunction of living cells regulated by genes cause cervical disease. Cervical disease, at that time, was the second most basic reason for female tumors. Hausen’s research made it possible to develop a vaccine against cervical cancer.
- 2010: Robert G. Edwards
(Discovery of in-vitro fertilization)
In cooperation with Patrick Steptoe, Robert G. Edwards found the solution for woman infertility which was caused by Fallopian tube blockage or due to a few eggs or sperm cells. Robert Edward introduced a method to remove the eggs from the ovaries, fertilized them in a test tube and later replaced it in a woman. This method is scientifically called as in-vitro fertilization. As a result, the first child was born in 1978 by in-vitro fertilization process.
- 2017: Jeffrey C. Hal, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young
(Discovery of molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythm)
The most recent Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three scientists named Jeffrey C. Hal, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young, for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.
Till date (1901-2017), 108 Nobel Prizes in Medicine have been awarded. Out of these, 39 medicine prizes have been given to individual Laureates only. Twelve women have been awarded this prize so far. These great researches in medical or physiological industry have contributed immensely to the human race and changed the conventional medical methods. The exceptional dedication of these scientists and their commitment to the society has led them to find new pathways to achieve goals beyond imagination. This esteemed Nobel Prize is truly an appreciation towards the remarkable scientists and their unimaginable work, making the world to remember them forever.