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Osaze Udeagbala

Student , Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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Are Nobel Prizes overrated?

Since the issuing of the first award in 1901, the Nobel Prize has become the pinnacle of general recognition. Many would agree that those who have received the Nobel Prize have done great work in their field, but even so there are themes of rejection, redemption, and controversy surrounding the awards. In my Bioelectricity class, for example, we have discussed a number of Nobel Laureates such as Arrhenius, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1903, for work that once received less than stellar reviews from his very own professors, and Nernst, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1920 for work based on the work of Arrhenius. We have also seen in history (e.g. Rosalind Franklin) circumstances in which scientists have participated closely with Nobel Prize-winning research, but nonetheless were left unrecognized. Finally, as there are very few categories for this award (physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace), notably left out are awards for engineering, technology and other advancements for humankind. So I ask the TED community: Do you think Nobel Prize are awarded effectively? And with respect to science: Who is better at evaluating the value of a scientist’s research? Peers? Awards committees? Especially given the fact that it often takes many years to see if research can stand the test of time? Are Nobel Prizes overrated?


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  • Feb 10 2013: The Nobel Prize has no cultural impact, to some extent the individuals who receive the Nobel Prize have some but this might be over rated if you do not consider the dynamics of that impact. The Nobel Peace Prize is given to individuals but behind each of those individuals is a society that should be rewarded for making the cultural and social changes needed for those recipients achievements to exist.

    Families, friends, social, educational and religious institutions that are accessible to the average individual is more worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize than those who actually receive the award. No one is self made.

    You can say the same thing about scientific achievements. It is easy to reward individuals but recognition comes from the community and ethical peers who acknowledge an individuals contributions. Without that, awards have no depth and we being to idolize accomplishments of individuals rather than appreciating services of the community. How many potential Nobel Prize recipients die everyday because they did not have a society to protect them and develop them?

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