Nobel winners helped by independence, coffee

December 7, 2009 By MALIN RISING , Associated Press Writer
Nobel Economics Prize laureates from USA, Oliver E. Williamson, left, University of California Berkeley, and Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University seated during a press conference at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden Monday Dec, 7, 2009. The 2009 Nobel prizes will be handed over to the laureates by the Swedish king on Thursday. (AP Photo/Scanpix Sweden/Bertil Ericson)

(AP) -- Intellectual freedom, independent research and frequent coffee breaks with colleagues helped this year's Nobel Prize winners make their groundbreaking scientific discoveries.

The winners of the 2009 Nobel Prizes in economics, chemistry and physics on Monday praised all these factors for their success.

American physics prize winner George E. Smith said scientists at the Bell Laboratories where he worked "largely ignored" topdown decisions and achieved good results through collaboration.

"There were a lot of good people, in fact an abundance of good people, and they interacted very strongly together, which was the important thing," Smith told reporters in the Swedish capital.

Smith will share one-half of the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) prize with American Willard S. Boyle for inventing a sensor used in digital cameras. The other half of the physics prize will go to Charles K. Kao, also from the U.S., for discovering how to transmit light signals long distances through hair-thin glass fibers.

Boyle said the freedom to chose his own research field was key to his success.

American scientist Thomas A. Steitz, who will share the chemistry prize with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan of the U.S. and Israeli Ada E. Yonath, said coffee breaks enabled him to discuss research with colleagues.

"What a fabulous place! in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, tea in the afternoon, I wondered how does anyone get any science done," he recalled about his first day at Cambridge University in 1967. "It's because they are talking to each other and they are learning what experiments they should do."

Economics prize winner Elinor Ostrom said she had a similar experience at Arizona State University's Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, which she set up with her husband.

"Development of good, solid, science requires environments in which you can discuss future ideas, sum up your recent findings, sum up your puzzles," the 76-year-old professor said. "I have benefited greatly from that environment."

Ostrom will share the economics award with fellow American Oliver E. Williamson for their work on the analysis of economic governance.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf will present the awards to the laureates Thursday, including literature prize winner, Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller, who won for her critical depiction of life behind the Iron Curtain, and the American medicine prize winners Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak.

President Barack Obama will travel to the Norwegian capital, Oslo, on Thursday to receive the Peace Prize at a separate ceremony, in line with the 1895 will of prize founder Alfred Nobel.

Nobel's will stipulated that the prizes, first handed out in 1901, should be given to those who "have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" in their respective fields.

The award ceremonies will be followed by lavish banquets at which the laureates dine with Scandinavian royals, university professors, politicians and foreign diplomats.

On the Net: http://www.nobelprize.org

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Major science prize for Russian physicist's Universe in a Helium Droplet

Related Stories

Stem cell pioneers among Nobel Prize candidates

October 4, 2009

(AP) -- Two Canadian scientists whose discovery of stem cells has paved the way for controversial research could be candidates for the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine, the winners of which will be announced Monday.

Israeli woman potential Nobel chemistry winner

October 7, 2009

(AP) -- If Nobel judges are looking to improve the balance of women winning the chemistry prize, Israeli scientist Ada Yonath could be a strong candidate when the award is announced Wednesday.

2 Americans, 1 Israeli win Nobel chemistry prize

October 7, 2009

(AP) -- Two Americans and an Israeli scientist won the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for atom-by-atom mapping of the protein-making factories within cells - a feat that has spurred the development of antibiotics.

US Nobel sweep points to brain drain

October 13, 2009

Cash-rich US researchers have again dominated this year's Nobel awards, but it seems identifying the nationality of laureates is not an exact science, and change may be on the way.

Recommended for you

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.