Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Nobel Prize Winners you aren't talking about, but should be
With everyone in a tiff about how President Barack Obama won the nobel for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," everyone seems to have forgotten the other extraordinary and revolutionary winners. With everyone debating whether it is too early for Obama to be praised with such an honor, wether it was a political move, and whether he has even done anything to deserve such an award, people have missed the quiet revolution that has been going on in the background. In fact, it didn't even occur to me to look up the other winners until tonight. And boy am I glad I looked them up. The nobel in physiology or medicine went to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szotack "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. " The nobel in economic sciences went to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson for their work in economic governance. Why is this great? Well, there's the fact that since the creation of the Nobel Prizes, only eight women had won in the category of medicine or physiology. No woman had ever won in the economic sciences, making Elinor Ostrom the first. There's also the fact that three women have never won in the sciences at the same time before. And oh yeah, did I mention that five women won a nobel this year, a new record? Women are finally being recognized as outstanding scientists, researchers, and thinkers, and as a feminist this makes me extremely happy. Carol W. Greider gave an interview for the New York times, which you can find here.
I really love her candid answer to this question:
Q. DO THIS YEAR’S NOBELS MEAN THAT WOMEN HAVE FINALLY BEEN ACCEPTED IN SCIENCE?
A. I certainly hope it’s a sign that things are going to be different in the future. But I’m a scientist, right? This is one event. I’m not going to see one event and say it’s a trend. I hope it is. One of the things I did with the press conference that Johns Hopkins gave was to have my two kids there. In the newspapers, there’s a picture of me and my kids right there. How many men have won the Nobel in the last few years, and they have kids the same age as mine, and their kids aren’t in the picture? That’s a big difference, right? And that makes a statement.
Right on. There's a lot of work ahead in terms of women in the sciences, but this at least is a start.