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Nobel Prize Winners Announced – Lesson

Winners for the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Literature, and Chemistry are recognized.

Chile Peppers Grown On Farm In Bowers Pennsylvania

(Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

The Nobel Prize is given out annually to those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind” during the previous year. The categories are Physics, Chemistry, Physiology, Medicine, Literature, and Peace.

Alfred Nobel, the Swedish scientist who invented dynamite, left all his assets to establish the “Nobel Prizes” named after him.

Award for Medicine/Physiology

David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian have been jointly awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for their findings on temperature and touch. They each studied about how our bodies use physical sensations from touch, heat, and cold, and change them into electrical messages in the nervous system.

Dr. Julius is a professor at the University of California. He used an ingredient from hot chili peppers to study cells that react to hot temperatures.

Dr. Patapoutian is a molecular biologist. He led a team that poked individual human cells with a tiny pipette. They found a receptor in the cells that responds to pressure and touch.

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Alfred Nobel (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

Winners for Chemistry

Two scientists were also awarded the Prize in Chemistry. Benjamin List and David MacMillan are the winners who will share the $1,138,000 prize.

They developed “organocatalysis,” a tool for building molecules that is both cheap and environmentally friendly.

The chemists started their research in 2000, working separately. They each worked to activate chemical reactions with small, organic molecules. Many pharmaceutical and technology studies rely on the creation of molecules through chemical reactions. This process typically happens very slowly, using catalysts that can speed up the reactions. For the last two decades, only metals and enzymes were used as catalysts. The scientists discovered amino acids can also work as catalysts.

Physics Prize

This year’s prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists studying the climate and other complex systems. Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann won for their research on the future of Earth’s climate.

Giorgio Parisi’s work was a bit different. The BBC described his research: He “found that hidden rules influence the apparently random behaviour of solid materials – and worked out a way to describe them mathematically.”

Literature Prize

Abdulrazak Gurnah is known as “one of the world’s most prominent post-colonial writers.” He was born in Tanzania but traveled to the United Kingdom from Africa as a refugee in 1967. His experience filled his novels with the impact of migration.

As a refugee who fled to Britain from a regime that persecuted the Arab Muslim community, Gurnah says he began writing as a way to explore the loss and liberation he felt leaving his homeland. “It wasn’t something where I thought, ‘I want to be a writer’ or anything like that,” he told The Guardian. “Writing [came] out of the situation that I was in, which was poverty, homesickness, being unskilled, uneducated. So out of that misery you begin to write things down.”

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Maria Ressa (Photo by Bernice Beltran/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Winners for Economics

There were three winners of the Economics award this year: David Card,  Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens. The three were congratulated on their work using “natural experiments.” According to the BBC, “Natural experiments use real-life situations to work out the impact of government decisions … Economists cannot run lab experiments to test their theories, so have to rely on [theories] and … real life situations.”

Angrist and Imbens looked at the link between education and income – for example, did an extra year in school change how much money a person could earn later in life?

Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two people: Filipino journalist Maria Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. The two reporters are known for defending press freedom and reporting on allegations of government corruption.