Dr. Ralph Steinman used a treatment he devised as a 30-year-old postdoc in 1973 to extend his own life after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago.
After a lifetime of scientific achievement, the Nobel Foundation came calling last week to award him this year's prize in medicine. As fate would have it, ironically, Dr. Steinman had passed away three days earlier from the same disease he fought so tirelessly to eradicate.
After learning of his death, the Nobel committee was faced with the dilemma of whether to honor the deceased scientist. The Nobel committee does not grant posthumous awards.
On Monday, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet near Stockholm announced that their decision would stand.
The decision to award the Nobel Prize to Ralph Steinman was made in good faith, based on the assumption that the Nobel Laureate was alive. This was true – though not at the time of the decision – only a day or so previously. The Nobel Foundation thus believes that what has occurred is more reminiscent of the example in the statutes concerning a person who has been named as a Nobel Laureate and has died before the actual Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.
Another Jewish scientist, Scripps researcher Bruce Beutler, will also receive Nobel honors in medicine this year.
With Steinman and Beutler, the Jewish people added to their dominance in the Nobel field.
Chemistry (31 prize winners, 20% of world total, 27% of US total)
Economics (28 prize winners, 42% of world total, 55% of US total)
Literature (13 prize winners, 12% of world total, 27% of US total)
Peace (9 prize winners, 9% of world total, 10% of US total)
Physics (47 prize winners, 25% of world total, 36% of US total)
Physiology or Medicine (53 prize winners, 27% of world total, 40% of US total)
The Jewish people comprise about 0.2 percent of the world’s population, yet they have won 181 Nobel Prizes. The Muslim world, on the other hand, accounts for 20 percent of the world's population, yet Muslims have won just six prizes, including Yasir Arafat’s Nobel Prize for Peace.
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