How many Nobel Prizes has Australia won

Nobel Prize Week - will more women be honored in 2020?

The Nobel Prizes stand for a lot, but certainly not for diversity and gender equality. Since 1901, in addition to 25 organizations, a total of 923 different scientists, writers and "peacemakers" have been honored with Nobel Prizes. The typical Nobel Prize winner is male, old and white not only in the natural sciences.

Almost all awards went to Europe or the USA, Japan received only 28, Australia 14, India 12, South Africa 11 and China had to be satisfied with 8 awards. The scientific fields are no exception.

Big differences, especially when it comes to scientific prices

Most noticeable is the gender difference in scientific awards, which is usually justified - by old, white men - by the fact that science was traditionally male-dominated and that it often honors scientific discoveries that were made many years ago.

Of all the winners, 54 are women, that's not even six percent. Marie Curie received the award twice, in 1903 for physics and eight years later for chemistry. A total of 12 Nobel Prize in Medicine went to women, 5 in the field of chemistry and 3 in the field of physics. On the other hand, there were "at least" 17 women for peace and 15 for literature, for example the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk received the Nobel Prize for Literature last year.

In addition, the French-American economist Esther Duflo received the Nobel Prize for Economics last year - so there were two women among the 15 winners in 2019.

Controversial award winners

The Nobel Prize is still considered the highest award in the disciplines considered - even if there have been many controversial decisions and scandals, especially in recent years. The prize was donated by Alfred Nobel, who had made a fortune with explosives.

The Nobel Peace Prizes were particularly controversial for Barack Obama after just nine months in office, for Palestinian leader Arafat and for the "peace project" of the European Union. Mahatma Gandhi, the symbolic figure for the non-violent struggle against injustice and oppression, was never honored despite numerous nominations.

Peter Handke, the 2019 Austrian Nobel Prize for Literature, is particularly controversial

The literary prizes were also controversial for the Finn Eemil Sillanpää, whom hardly anyone knows and reads, for Harry Edmund Martinson, who practically distinguished himself as an academy member and who committed suicide shortly after the award ceremony. Or last year's award for the Austrian award winner Peter Handke, who, according to critics, had trivialized or denied the war crimes committed by Serbs in the war in Yugoslavia.

The Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm are firmly in male hands

In the natural sciences, few award winners are controversial, certainly also because the subject is often very complex. However, the Danish pathologist Johannes Grib Fibiger received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1926 for discovering that a small nematode causes stomach cancer, which later turned out to be a mistake.

The Canadian John Macleod received the prestigious award in 1923, even though he was on vacation when employees of his institute discovered insulin. And in 2002 the Japanese Koichi Tanaka received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a laser process that only he himself uses.

2020 more Nobel Prizes for women?

In the scientific disciplines in particular, women were often overshadowed by their male competitors. Researchers who had made a significant contribution to the research that was awarded the Nobel Prize also received no recognition.

These certainly include Lise Meitner (discoverer of the release of energy during nuclear fission), Jocelyn Bell Burnell (discoverer of the rapidly rotating neutron stars - pulsars) or the US astronomer Vera Rubin, who provided the first convincing evidence of the existence of dark matter as early as the 1970s found. Instead, three male astro-physicists were honored for the topic last year.

Top researchers instead of quota women

In times when there is a lot of discussion about gender equality and diversity, the expectations of the Nobel Foundation are particularly high this year.

Structurally, a lot has changed in the natural sciences over the past few decades, and there are now numerous female candidates who would have more than deserved such an award. The inventors of the Crispr-CAS9 gene scissors, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, have been promising candidates since 2012.

  • Inspiring researchers

    Computer visionary

    Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 as the daughter of the romantic Lord Byron. As a gifted mathematician, she wrote a kind of early computer program as early as the middle of the 19th century. She is considered to be the first to recognize that the mechanical forerunners of the computer could not only be used for numbers. Lovelace worked on the design of the "Analytical Engine" calculating machine from Charles Babbage.

  • Inspiring researchers

    Science giant in two fields of research

    Born in Warsaw in 1867, Marie Curie emigrated to Paris to study, where she worked on research into radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. And not only that: she even got two: in 1903 in physics - together with her husband Pierre and the physicist Henri Becquerel - and in 1911 in chemistry for the discovery of radium and polonium.

  • Inspiring researchers

    The double helix unraveled

    Rosalind Franklin is one of those who might have deserved a Nobel Prize but never got it. The biophysicist developed the fundamentals that enabled James Watson and Francis Crick to discover the structure of the DNA double helix. The men received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for this, Franklin received nothing. She did not live to see the award ceremony. Shortly before, she died of cancer.

  • Inspiring researchers

    Vitamins and insulin deciphered

    The British biochemist Dorothy Hodgkin was a contemporary of Rosalind Franklin. The two exchanged their experiences. Hodgkin analyzed the structure of vitamin B12 and in 1964 was the third woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Five years later, Hodgkin deciphered the structure of insulin.

  • Inspiring researchers

    A cellular fountain of youth

    Elizabeth Blackburn received the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine for her work on telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes. The molecular biologist was involved in the discovery of the enzyme telomerase, which ensures a sufficient supply of telomeres. Blackburn's discoveries are critical to understanding aging and how cancer develops.

  • Inspiring researchers

    How do the chimpanzees live?

    British behavioral scientist Jane Goodall spent decades with chimpanzees and studied their social and family behavior in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. Some research colleagues criticized the fact that they humanized the animals. Goodall opposed this and increasingly advocated primate rights - similar to human rights.

  • Inspiring researchers

    The woman of strong nerve cells

    Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Italy in 1909. As a Jew, she had to stop her research under Mussolini. She went ahead anyway and set up a laboratory in her bedroom where she worked with nerve fibers from chicken embryos. After the war, she researched cell communications. In 1986 she received the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

  • Inspiring researchers

    Neutron stars and little green men

    In 1967 the Northern Irish physicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered signals from the depths of space with a radio telescope. Initially laughed at as the cry of "little green man", it quickly became clear that Burnell had detected pulsars - rapidly rotating neutron stars. In 1974 her doctoral supervisor Antony Hewish and Martin Ryle received the Nobel Prize for it, but she did not.

    Author: Richard Connor (fs)