Nobel Prizes

PRAISING JIMMY TO PROD GEORGE

The committee’s choice of former U.S. president Carter makes a point for peace

JONATHON GATEHOUSE October 21 2002
Nobel Prizes

PRAISING JIMMY TO PROD GEORGE

The committee’s choice of former U.S. president Carter makes a point for peace

JONATHON GATEHOUSE October 21 2002

PRAISING JIMMY TO PROD GEORGE

Nobel Prizes

JONATHON GATEHOUSE

The committee’s choice of former U.S. president Carter makes a point for peace

A LIFE’S WORK that didn’t end with an electoral defeat. A stark literary vision of the inherent cruelty of man and society. Tiny discoveries that have opened windows on the vast mysteries of the mind, body, and universe. Diverse accomplishments now linked by a singular honour.

There is only one instantly recognizable name among this year’s Nobel laureates, announced last week—former U.S. president Jimmy Carter—honoured with the Peace Prize for his decades of efforts to advance human rights and democracy. His surprise selection is also a not-so-subtle reminder for current President George W. Bush that many world opinion makers, particularly those in Europe, still favour talking over fighting. “In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation,” says the citation. Gunnar Berge, head of the Nobel committee, was even more explicit: “It should be interpreted as a criticism.” The award also corrects a historical oversight. In 1978 Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin won the prize for making peace between Egypt and Israel, a deal brokered by Carter and considered the greatest achievement of his presidency.

But while the other recipients may be lesser known, their contributions are equally far-reaching. Chemists John Fenn, an American, Koichi Tanaka, from Japan, and Kurt Wüthrich, a Swiss, are being rewarded for developing techniques that allow scientists to identify and map the structure of large biological molecules like proteins, carbohydrates and DNA. The discoveries are helping researchers create more effective pharmaceuticals and may lead to earlier detection of diseases like cancer.

Masatoshi Koshiba of Japan, and Americans Raymond Davis and Riccardo Giacconi, will share the 2002 award for physics for their contributions to the field

of astrophysics. Davis and Koshiba found ways to detect and capture neutrinos, among the smallest components of the universe, improving our understanding of the inner workings of the sun and other stars. Giacconi, who was born in Italy, constructed the first telescopes to look for X-rays, helping to discover millions of previously unseen stars.

Three researchers, American Robert Horvitz, and Great Britain’s Sydney Brenner and John Sulston, are co-recipients of the Nobel Prize for medicine. The trio have improved our understanding of the growth and death of cells, shedding light on the progression and treatment of diseases like AIDS and cancer.

Prizewinners found ways to capture neutrinos, to understand the life and death of cells, and to see previously unseen stars

Vernon Smith, an American, and Daniel Kahneman, a citizen of both the U.S. and Israel, will share the prize in economics for their insights on how decisions are made in the marketplace. Kahneman, a psychologist, studies the irrational economic choices people make, like driving great distances to save a few dollars on a purchase. Smith pioneered experimental economics, running trials in the lab in order to better understand a business model’s chances of success.

Hungarian writer Imre Kertész is this year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature. Kertész, a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, has a relatively small body of work, but was singled out because his writing “upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history,” said the jury.

The prizes, which come with a cash award of 10 million Swedish kroner ($1.7 million), will be officially conferred in Stockholm and Oslo on Dec. 10, the 106th anniversary of the death of their namesake, Alfred Nobel. 1?!