Nobel Prize winners for the year 2011 have been announced. Here is the list of people who were honoured with the greatest of all awards:
Nobel Peace Prize: Liberia’s Johnson-Sirleaf
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the award with Leymah Gbowee and Yemen’s Tawakkul Karman, for work to promote women’s rights and peace building. Johnson-Sirleaf, 72, Gbowee and Karman were announced as winners of the 10 million-krona ($1.5 million) prize on October 7, 2011 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo. They were awarded the prize for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work,” the committee said.
Johnson-Sirleaf, who became Africa’s first female president in 2005, has been rebuilding a country devastated by civil wars from 1989 to 2003 that killed an estimated 250,000 people. Liberia’s Gbowee, a social worker and a mother of five, is executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, a group dedicated to promoting women’s participation and leadership. She’s featured in “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a documentary about the Liberian women who took on warlords and the regime of Charles Taylor during the civil war. Karman, a human rights activist from Yemen, has helped organise protests inspired by the Arab Spring that swept across North Africa to protest the rule of Ali Abdulla Saleh.
About Nobel Peace Prize: Annual prizes for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and literature were established in the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite who died in 1896, and the first prizes were handed out in 1901. The peace prize is the only award to be given in Oslo. The other prizes are announced in Stockholm, including one for economics that was set up by Sweden’s central bank in memory of Nobel.
Nobel Medicine Prize: Beutler, Hoffmann, Steinman
Three scientists who unlocked secrets of the immune system, leading to new vaccines and treatments for cancer, won the 2011 Nobel Prize for Medicine on October 3, 2011. American Bruce Beutler and French biologist Jules Hoffmann, who studied the first stages of immune responses to attack, shared the $1.5 million award with Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, working in the US, who discovered dendritic cells which helps defeat infection. “This year’s Nobel laureates have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation,” the award panel at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said in a statement in Stockholm.
Beutler, 53, is based at the Scripps Research Institute in California, USA while Hoffmann, 70, works at National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Strasbourg, France. They will share half the 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.46 million) of prize money. The rest goes to Steinman, 68, from Rockefeller University in New York. Their work has been pivotal to the development of improved types of vaccines against infectious diseases and novel approaches to fighting cancer. The research has helped lay the foundations for a new wave of “therapeutic vaccines” that stimulate the immune system to attack tumors.
Steinman passed away on September 30. Steinman will keep his Nobel prize for medicine, the Nobel Foundation has said, after his death on September 30, 2011 at the age of 68 threw it into doubt. The Nobel is typically not awarded posthumously. In 1931, Erik Axel Karlfeldt was posthumously awarded the Nobel prize for literature, but the rules were changed in 1974. In 1996 William Vickrey died between the announcement and the prize ceremony.
Nobel Physics Prize: Perlmutter, Riess, Schmidt
Three researchers behind the discovery that our Universe’s expansion is accelerating were on October 4, 2011 selected for this year’s Nobel prize for physics. The trio studied what are called Type 1a supernovae, determining that more distant objects seem to move faster. Their observations suggest that not only is the Universe expanding, its expansion is relentlessly speeding up. Prof Perlmutter of the University of California, Berkeley, has been awarded half the 10m Swedish krona prize, with Prof Schmidt of the Australian National University and Prof Riess of Johns Hopkins University’s Space Telescope Science Institute sharing the other half.
The trio’s findings form the basis of our current understanding of the Universe’s origins, but raises a number of difficult questions. In order to explain the rising expansion, cosmologists have suggested the existence of what is known as dark energy. Although its properties and nature remain mysterious, the predominant theory holds that dark energy makes up some three-quarters of the Universe. But at the time the work was first being considered, no such exotic explanations were yet needed.
Prof Perlmutter led the Supernova Cosmology Project beginning in 1988, and Prof Schmidt and Prof Riess began work in 1994 on a similar project known as the High-z Supernova Search Team. Their goal was to measure distant Type 1a supernovae - the brilliant ends of a particular kind of dense star known as a white dwarf. Because their explosive ends are of roughly the same brightness, the amount of light observed from the supernovae on Earth should be an indication of their distance; slight shifts in their colour indicate how fast they are moving.
At the time, the competing teams expected to find that the more distant supernovae were slowing down, relative to those nearer - a decline of the expansion of the Universe that began with the Big Bang. Instead, both teams found the same thing: distant supernovae were in fact speeding up, suggesting that the Universe is destined for an ever-increasing expansion.
That result in the end sparked a new epoch in cosmology, seeking to understand what is driving the expansion.
Nobel Chemistry Prize: Dan Shechtman
An Israeli scientist on October 5, 2011 was declared winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering quasicrystals, a material in which atoms were packed together in a well-defined pattern that never repeats.
Recent Nobel prizes have generally split credit for scientific advances among two or three people, but this year’s chemistry prize and the accompanying 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.4 million) went to a single scientist: Dan Shechtman (70), a professor of materials science at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. Prof. Shechtman is also a professor at Iowa State University and a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.
The citation from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences states simply, “for the discovery of quasicrystals.” Regular but non-repeating patterns, defined by precise rules, have been known in mathematics since antiquity, and medieval Islamic artists made decorative, non-repeating tile mosaics, but the phenomenon was thought impossible in the packing of atoms.
Yet Prof. Shechtman discovered the same type of structure in a mixture of aluminium and manganese. In April 1982, he took a molten glob of the metals and chilled it rapidly. The expectation was that the atoms would have been a random jumble, like glass. Yet when he examined his metal with an electron microscope, Prof. Shechtman found that the atoms were not random. The new structural form was previously thought to be impossible and provoked controversy.
Nobel Prize in Literature: Tomas Transtromer
80-year old Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer was announced as the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in literature on October 6, 2011. Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy praised Transtromer, saying that “through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” Transtromer, whose mother was a schoolteacher and father a journalist, studied literature, history, religion and psychology at the University of Stockholm, graduating in 1956. He briefly worked as a psychologist at a youth correctional facility. The committee noted that it had been many years since a Swede had won the prize. The last time it happened was in 1974, when two Swedish authors, Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, shared the prize. Since 1901, 103 Nobel Prizes in Literature have been awarded. The prize comes with an honorarium of 10 million kronor, or about $1.5 million.
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