In Nobel Prizes 2021, Press freedom, the plight of refugees and climate modelling: 12 men and only one woman won Nobel Prizes 2021 for conferring “the greatest benefit to humankind”.
While four women won Nobel prizes in 2020 close to the 2009 record of five the awards remain male-dominated as much of the prizewinning work dates back 20, 30 or even 40 years when fewer women reached the top levels of academic research.
In 2019, there was only one woman laureate, and in 2017 and 2016 there were none.
List of Nobel Prizes 2021 Winners
Nobel Prize 2021 in Physics
- Scientists Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Physics for work that helps understand complex physical systems such as Earth’s changing climate.
- One half of the prize went in equal parts to Manabe and Hasselmann for modelling earth’s climate and reliably predicting global warming.
- The other half was awarded to Parisi for discovering in the early 1980s “hidden rules” behind seemingly random movements and swirls in gases or liquids that can also be applied to aspects of neuroscience, machine learning and starling flight formations.
Nobel Prize 2021 in Physiology or Medicine
- American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch which the award-giving body said could pave the way for new painkillers.
- Their findings “have allowed us to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world around us.
- Patapoutian is credited for finding the cellular mechanism and the underlying gene that translates a mechanical force on our skin into an electrical nerve signal.
- David Julius findings on the skin’s sense of temperature was based on how certain cells react to capsaicin, the molecule that makes chilli peppers spicy by simulating a false sensation of heat.
Nobel Prize 2021 in Chemistry
- The 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to German scientist Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute and Scotland-born scientist David W.C. MacMillan of Princeton University “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”.
- Developed by the duo in 2000, this novel technique of catalysis is an efficient, “precise, cheap, fast and environmentally friendly” way to develop new molecules.
- What is catalysis?
- Catalysis is a term used to describe a process in the presence of a substance (the catalyst) that controls and influences the rate and/or the outcome of the reaction.
- The substance — the catalyst — which helps in achieving this remains intact and is not consumed during the reaction and neither becomes a part of the final product.
- The catalyst is subsequently removed so as not to add impurity to the final product.
- Catalysts are often used to produce new and functional molecules that are utilised in drugs and other everyday substances.
- For example:
- catalysts in cars transform toxic substances in exhaust fumes to harmless molecules.
- When silver is put in a beaker along with hydrogen peroxide, the latter suddenly breaks down to form water and oxygen. The silver, which initiated the reaction, does not get consumed or affected by the reaction.
- Two very different catalysts —metals and enzymes— were routinely used.
- What makes asymmetric organocatalysts superior to metal and enzyme catalysts?
- Unlike enzyme catalysts which are huge, asymmetric organocatalysts are made of a single amino acid. They are not only environmentally friendly but also quicken the reaction and make the process cheaper.
- Most importantly, asymmetric organocatalysts allow only one mirror image of the molecule to form as the catalysts are made from a single, circular amino acid. Chemists often want only one of these mirror images, particularly when producing drugs.
- Organic catalysts have a stable framework of carbon atoms, to which more active chemical groups can attach. These often contain common elements such as oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur or phosphorus. This means that these catalysts are both environmentally friendly and cheaper to produce.
Nobel Prize 2021 in Literature
- The 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah.
- The Swedish Academy bestowed on him the honour “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Nobel Prize for Peace 2021
- The Prestigious Nobel Peace Prize this year was awarded to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, journalists whose work has angered the rulers of the Philippines and Russia respectively.
- The two were awarded “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression” in their countries.
- Ressa was the first individual winner of a Nobel prize in any field from the Philippines.
Nobel Prize 2021 in Economics
- Three US-based economists won the 2021 Nobel prize for economics for pioneering research on the labour market impacts of minimum wage, immigration and education, and for creating the scientific framework to allow conclusions to be drawn from such studies that can’t use traditional methodology.
- David Card of California was awarded one half of the prize, while the other half was shared by Joshua Angrist and Dutch-born Guido Imbens.
- The three have “completely reshaped empirical work in the economic sciences.”
- Unlike the other Nobel prizes, the economics award wasn’t established in the will of Alfred Nobel but by the Swedish central bank in his memory in 1968, with the first winner selected a year later. It is the last prize announced each year.
Nobel Prize Facts at a Glance
- On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace – the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
- In the statutes of the Nobel Foundation it says: “A prize amount may be equally divided between two works, each of which is considered to merit a prize. If a work that is being rewarded has been produced by two or three persons, the prize shall be awarded to them jointly. In no case may a prize amount be divided between more than three persons.”
- Between 1901 and 2021, the Nobel Prizes and the prize in economic sciences were awarded 609 times. 947 laureates* and 28 organizations have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2021. Of them, 89 are economic sciences laureates.
- The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to 219 laureates* 1901-2021. As John Bardeen has been awarded twice there are 218 individuals who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics since 1901.
- The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to 188 laureates* 1901-2021. As Frederick Sanger has been awarded twice, there are 187 individuals who have received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry since 1901.
- 112 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine have been awarded since 1901. It was not awarded on nine occasions.
- 114 Nobel Prizes in Literature have been awarded since 1901. It was not awarded on seven occasions.
- 102 Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded since 1901. It was not awarded on 19 occasions.
- The youngest Nobel Prize laureates: Malala Yousafzai for Peace.
- The oldest Nobel Prize laureates: John B. Goodenough for Chemistry
- Between 1901 and 2021 the Nobel Prize and prize in economic sciences have been awarded 58 times to women.
- Two Nobel Prize laureates declined the prize: Jean-Paul Sartre, awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature, declined the prize because he had consistently declined all official honours. Le Duc Tho, awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
- Three Nobel Prize laureates were under arrest at the time of the award of the Nobel Prize.
- The work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been honoured by a Nobel Peace Prize three times. Besides, the founder of the ICRC, Henry Dunant, was awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
- Linus Pauling is the only person to have been awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes – the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize.
- From 1974, the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that a prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement of the Nobel Prize.
- Before 1974, the Nobel Prize has only been awarded posthumously twice.
- No one has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine more than once.
- Women in Nobel Prizes
- Of the 187 individuals awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, seven are women so far.
- Of the 218 individuals awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, four are women.
- Of the 224 individuals awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 12 are women.
- 16 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
- Of the 109 individuals awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 18 are women.
- 02 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science.
Nobel Prize winners in India
- Rabindranath Tagore – Nobel Prize for Literature (1913)
- CV Raman – Nobel Prize for Physics (1930)
- Har Gobind Khurana – Nobel Prize for Medicine (1968)
- Mother Teresa – Nobel Peace Prize (1979)
- Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar – Nobel Prize for Physics (1983)
- Amartya Sen – Nobel Prize for Economics (1998)
- Venkatraman Ramakrishnan – Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2009)
- Kailash Satyarthi – Nobel Peace Prize (2014)
- Abhijit Banerjee – Nobel Prize for Economics (2019)
- In addition to these nine winners from India, there have been two more winners who were born in India. Rudyard Kipling, author of the Jungle Book was born in Mumbai in 1865. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work in 1907 and was the first English-language writer to receive the prize.
- Ronald Ross, was born in Almora in British India and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his exceptional work in the field of malaria.
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