It is the Nobel Prize season again. A friend of mine would make it a point to remind me to visit the official website and check the winners, their Bio, familiarise with their work and read any initial reaction of the winners. I still diligently do that and this year is no different.

Like all fields, Academics also has it’s own share of ‘protectionism’ and quite rightly so. Albeit a bit more protected than other fields. Nonetheless, there are awards that every field has come up with, these are to reward few people from the same fraternity who have contributed immensely to the field.  These are people who have tirelessly worked most of their lives to come up with newer ideas or newer processes or better methods of doing things, and some of them do affect our day to day lives, however intangibly it might be. Like many of the awards, you cannot win a Nobel. You can win in any sport by knowing how many points to score over the opponent, but when it comes to Nobel, it can only be Awarded. One would never get to know what one has to do to Win a Nobel. He/She can only work untiringly without even hoping that the  committee would find their work befitting of a Nobel.

Named after Alfred Nobel, the Nobel prize awarded for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Economics is a way to acknowledge the work being carried out in universities across the world, primarily, in pure sciences. The objective also is to indirectly inspire more people to continue their work in pure sciences inspite of lure from other fields. One could question is Economics a science? While it is debatable but, by restricting the award to only professors in universities carrying out research in understanding the uncertainties of the economic paradigm they legitamise it’s role as a scientific field even though it wasn’t in the Will of Alfred Nobel. Nobel prize awarded for Literature is an attempt to appreciate fine arts and people who have a way with words and have influenced, entire world or a part of it, quite strongly. Most of us are not equipped to say if the awarded prize in a particular field is worthy or not. Probably some awardees might be subject to jokes and ridicule in the academic world and make for good ‘dirty gossip’ at an university water cooler or coffee vending machine. Nonetheless one of the categories for which Nobel is awarded has been open for wider discussion and debate, this is Nobel for Peace. More so after Barrack Obama was awarded this in the second year of his presidency in 2009, though there have been other controversies in the past, for example Henry Kissenger being given the Nobel for peace in 1973 or Mahatma Gandhi never being awarded Peace prize inspite of his life long commitment to non-violence. One must note, Nobel Prize is never awarded Posthumously.

There have been people who have one the Nobel more than once. very few:

Marie Sklodowska Curie 1903 in Physics and 1911 in Chemistry
Linus Pauling 1954  in Chemistry 1962 in Peace
John Bardeen : 1956  in Physics and 1972 in Physics
Frederick Sanger 1958     in Chemistry and 1980 in Chemistry

There have been People of Indian Origin or Indian Citizens or Foreign citizen born in India who have won the award:

1902     Ronald Ross                                        Medicine                   Foreign citizens born in India
1907     Rudyard Kipling                                 Literature                   Foreign citizens born in India
1913     Rabindranath Tagore                          Literature                   Citizen of India
1930     C.V. Raman                                        Physics                       Citizen of India
1968     Har Gobind Khorana                          Medicine                   Foreign citizens of Indian origin
1979     Mother Teresa                                     Peace                         Citizen of India
1983     Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar           Physics                       Citizen of India
1998     Amartya Sen                                      Economic Sciences     Citizen of India
2001     VS Naipaul                                         Literature                     Foreign citizens of Indian origin
2009     Venkatraman Ramakrishnan              Chemistry                    Citizen of India and US

Interestingly though, no matter how aloof it might seem from most of our day to day activities, some awardees are still celebrated or disagreed widely. This is no different than Oscars where there might be multiple opinions that could exist about the legitimacy and merit of a particular performance. However I am sure this might be the most awaited season in the academic circles and am sure the awardees get to further their academic career aided by the tag of being a Nobel winner. I Invite all of you to join in the falvor of the season and try and celebrate some of the great work that is being recognized this year.