Nobel Prize 2019 Winners Announced!
This past week the winners of the various Nobel prizes were announced! We’ve rounded up all the winners so that you can read about their contributions over the years. We’ve highlighted the STEM related awards, but did you also know that there are other Nobel prizes?
Lithium-Ion Batteries Charge up 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 was awarded on October 9 to the pioneers of the now ubiquities lithium-ion battery that powers everything from phones to cars.
$900,000 will be shared between the three winners: John Goodenough of the University of Texas at Austin, Stanley Whittingham of the State University of New York in Binghamton, and Akira Yoshino of Asahi Kasei Corporation in Tokyo.
The foundation of the lithium-ion battery was laid during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Stanley Whittingham worked on developing methods that could lead to fossil fuel-free energy technologies. He started to research superconductors and discovered an extremely energy-rich material, which he used to create an innovative cathode in a lithium battery. This was made from titanium disulphide which, at a molecular level, has spaces that can house – intercalate – lithium ions.
John Goodenough predicted that the cathode would have even greater potential if it was made using a metal oxide instead of a metal sulphide. After a systematic search, in 1980 he demonstrated that cobalt oxide with intercalated lithium ions can produce as much as four volts. This was an important breakthrough and would lead to much more powerful batteries.
With Goodenough’s cathode as a basis, Akira Yoshino created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1985. Rather than using reactive lithium in the anode, he used petroleum coke, a carbon material that, like the cathode’s cobalt oxide, can intercalate lithium ions.
New perspectives on our place in the universe with the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 was awarded on October 8 for new understanding of the universe’s structure and history, and the first discovery of a planet orbiting a solar-type star outside our solar system.
Half of the award goes to James Peebles, Princeton University, USA for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos.
The other half jointly to Michel Mayor, University of Geneva, Switzerland and Didier Queloz, University of Geneva, Switzerland and University of Cambridge, UK for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.
James Peebles’ insights into physical cosmology have enriched the entire field of research and laid a foundation for the transformation of cosmology over the last fifty years, from speculation to science. His theoretical framework, developed since the mid-1960s, is the basis of our contemporary ideas about the universe.
In October 1995, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the first discovery of a planet outside our solar system, an exoplanet, orbiting a solar-type star in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. At the Haute-Provence Observatory in southern France, using custom-made instruments, they were able to see planet 51 Pegasi b, a gaseous ball comparable with the solar system’s biggest gas giant, Jupiter. This discovery started a revolution in astronomy and over 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way.
Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 2019
The Nobel Prize in Medicine 2019 was jointly awarded on October 7 to William Kaelin Jr., Sir Peter Ratcliffe and Gregg Semenza for their pioneering research into how human cells respond to changing oxygen levels.
All three scientists worked independently for more than two decades to establish how cells can sense and adapt to changing oxygen availability, and identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying oxygen levels.
Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 and 2019
This year there were two Nobel Prizes in Litaerature awarded on October 14 after last year’s award was canceled amid a scandal. Olga Tokarczuk (2018) and Peter Handke (2019) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Peter Handke was honored for “influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.” The Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
Nobel Peace Prize 2019
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on October 11 to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.” Other candidates included The 16-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for a peace treaty in the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, the Brazilian environmentalist Raoni Metuktire, and the organization Reporters Without Borders which advocates for freedom of information and freedom of the press.
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019 was awarded jointly to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” The research conducted by this year’s Laureates has considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty. In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research.
Who was Alfred Nobel?
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 21, 1833. His family was descended from Olof Rudbeck, the best-known technical genius in Sweden in the 17th century, an era in which Sweden was a great power in northern Europe. Nobel was fluent in several languages, and wrote poetry and drama. Nobel was also very interested in social and peace-related issues, and held views that were considered radical during his time. Alfred Nobel’s interests are reflected in the prize he established upon his death in his will, which you can see in the except below:
“All of my remaining realizable assets are to be disbursed as follows: the capital, converted to safe securities by my executors, is to constitute a fund, the interest on which is to be distributed annually as prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. The interest is to be divided into five equal parts and distributed as follows: one part to the person who made the most important discovery or invention in the field of physics; one part to the person who made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who, in the field of literature, produced the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction; and one part to the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry are to be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical achievements by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be selected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that when awarding the prizes, no consideration be given to nationality, but that the prize be awarded to the worthiest person, whether or not they are Scandinavian.”