Nobel Prizes 2019

Let's Take a Look at This Year's Nobel Prize Winners

drawing by Rachel Tian

Rachel Tian, Staff Writer

In an 1895 draft of his will, Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel declared that a portion of his fortune would be set aside for five annual “Nobel Prizes” in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. These awards would honor those “who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Five years after Nobel’s death in 1901, the first round of awards were distributed. Later, in 1968, the Bank of Sweden established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel and announced its first winner the following year.

Today, the Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and economic sciences are presented in Stockholm, Sweden while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

This year’s Nobel Prize announcements began on Monday, October 7, with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Gregg L. Semenza split the prize “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.” Oxygen is not always readily available, and without it, the trillions of cells in one’s body could not function. The trio developed machinery to control gene activity in response to varying oxygen levels. These accomplishments serve as crucial stepping stones towards treating anemia, cancer, and many other diseases.

On Tuesday, October 8, James Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Peebles won with “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology,” whereas Mayor and Queloz discovered “an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.” Due to these outstanding achievements, scientists can now better understand the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang and improve our conception of the world through acknowledging new planets.

John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino were announced as winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday, October 9. They collaboratively developed lithium-ion batteries, which were rooted after the 1970 oil crisis, and they have “laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society.” Due to their invention, people can now efficient use portable electronics such as mobile phones, pacemakers, and electric cars.

Peter Handke, an Austrian novelist and playwright, won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, October 10, for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.” His most popular work, “A Sorrow Beyond Dreams,” was published in 1971 about his mother’s suicide. He was also praised by the Nobel committee for “Die Obstdiebin,” published in 2017.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali received the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, October 11, “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.” Last year, leaders from neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a “Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship” under Ali’s administration, declaring an end to a “state of war” that had killed 70,000 people. Additionally, he filled cabinet positions with a record 50% women.

And last, on Monday, October 14, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer were announced as the winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. The trio worked together to “alleviate global poverty.” Following their helpful research, more and more Indian children are benefiting from remedial tutoring in schools, and countries are now embracing subsidies for preventive health care.