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AAAS Members Receive Nobel Prizes for Medicine, Chemistry, Peace
Al Gore Jr.
Three of the six researchers who received Nobel Prizes for science this year are AAAS members, as is former Vice President Al Gore Jr., who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness about global climate change.
Gore shares the award with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a network of 2,000 scientists that has delivered a series of reports laying out the scientific evidence for climate change. In its 12 October award announcement, the Nobel committee said the panel's reports have "created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming." The announcement said Gore is "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted" to address climate change.
[Photo by Dirk Douglass, courtesy of the University of Utah]
[Photo © University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]
The 2007 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine was awarded 8 October to Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah, Martin J. Evans of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina. The three were honored for their discoveries of "principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells," according to the award citation. The gene-targeting method has become an indispensable biomedical research tool.
Smithies and Capecchi are AAAS members. Capecchi delivered a topical lecture at the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting on "gene-targeting in the 21st century."
Capecchi's compelling personal story as a child in Italy drew as much interest in news accounts as his prize-winning research. His politically active mother was sent to the Dachau concentration camp during World War II. He survived on the streets until his mother, released from the camp after the war, found him malnourished in a hospital. They emigrated to the United States, where Capecchi found opportunity and took advantage of it under mentors including Nobel laureate James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.
[Photo © Max Planck Society / Norbert Michalke]
The Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded on 10 October to Gerhard Ertl, a AAAS member based at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces. Ertl discovered how various metal surfaces could act as catalysts to help speed up chemical reactions that normally occur more slowly in air; the work helped lead to catalytic converters for cleaner-running cars, corrosion-proof metals and artificial fertilizers. Ertl learned of his award on his 71st birthday.
The Nobel Prize for physics, announced 9 October, went to Albert Fert of the Université Paris-Sud in Orsay, France, and Peter Grünberg of the Jülich Research Center in Germany. They were honored for research that led to an exponential increase in the storage capacity of hard drives, opening the way to very thin cell phones, iPods, compact digital video cameras and other devices. The pair found they could greatly enhance the effects of a magnetic field by using ultra-thin layers of metal. This principle, called giant magnetoresistance, enabled use of much weaker fields to read and write data to a hard drive, a key step toward packing more information into smaller spaces.
12 October 2007