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What’s your favorite (and/or least favorite) Nobel-Prize-winning science?

The Nobel Prize is awarded annually in recognition of significant scientific advances. In my Bioelectricity class, we’ve already learned about many Nobel Prize winners. Arrhenius, for example, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1903 for his electrolytic theory concerning the dissociation of ions (electrically charged particles), Nernst, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1920 for his work in understanding the energy of reactions, Hodgkin and Huxley won in 1963 for their discoveries concerning nerve action potentials, Neher and Sakmann received one in 1991 for work to isolate single ion channels in cells, and MacKinnon was awarded the Prize in Chemistry in 2003 for his discoveries concerning ion channels in cell membranes, just to name a few!
However, although the Nobel Prize for sciences is awarded formally for physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine, there is no prize for engineering, for example, and also there have been controversies for prizes awarded in the past. And, so, why not ask:
What’s your favorite (and/or least favorite) Nobel-Prize-winning science? What makes science “good” or “bad” at all?


Closing Statement from Andrew Kiang

Thanks to all of you for sharing your favorite Nobel Prize winners and your opinions about what makes "good" science. In the end, "good science" is still hard to define clearly but it seems to lean on the side of working genuinely to benefit mankind. I am glad to hear there are other prizes with as much prestige as the Nobel. Good work in other categories besides the strict Nobel sciences need to be encouraged.

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  • Feb 12 2012: Hey Andrew,
    My favorite Nobel Prize was awarded to Fleming, Florey and Chain in 1945 for the discovery of penicillin. Along with revolutionizing medicine in the 1900's, penicillin serves as a fascinating reminder of what role luck can play in scientific discovery. Fleming himself acknowledged that if he had followed proper controls and was engaged in his then current field of research, penicillin probably would not have been discovered.
    • Feb 12 2012: This is a great example of how important scientific discoveries can come about by accident! The next important finding may not always be immediately predictable. Heres the story for anyone interested: http://history1900s.about.com/od/medicaladvancesissues/a/penicillin.htm
      • Feb 12 2012: Did you know that due to modern science adapting and making better medicine, supergerms are created? This continual process of making better medicine to combat stronger germs could cause the death of humanity when the germ becomes too powerful! Can this "good science" be "bad science" as time goes on? I find this astounding.
        • Feb 13 2012: Hi Ted,

          The development of resistance by uncontrolled uses of antibiotics was certainly understood even during Fleming's time. He may have been one of the earliest guys to sound the alarm, but I have to check that. Fortunately, I think that there is a limit to how "super" a super bug can get. Over the eons,Mother nature has been a potent generator of all the possible permutations of polypetides and glycopetides, etc, that can be developed to circumvent our defenses, with and without antibiotics. Unfortunately, due to solely economic reasons, research into discovering new antibiotics, of which we have only just begun to scratch the surface of, has significantly tapered off. Maintaining that chemical "arms race" by bio-medical research should be a priority, but sadly isn't.

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