Medicine to Peace: These are the Nobel Prize winners in 2022

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • The Nobel Prize announcements are taking place between October 3-10.
  • There are six prizes in total, including prizes for Literature and Peace.
  • Swedish geneticist Professor Svante Pääbo won the first prize – the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2022.
  • The Nobel physics prize goes to sleuths of ‘spooky’ quantum science.

How far back does your family tree reach? The winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine just added a few thousand years.

Swedish geneticist Professor Svante Pääbo discovered the genetic identity of two of humankind’s earliest ancestors, opening a new window on human evolution in the process.

He was the first winner of this year’s six Nobel Prizes that are being announced between 3 and 10 October. Here’s what you need to know about his discovery – and the recipients of the other Nobel Prizes 2022, including the prizes for Literature and Peace…

Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine

Prof Pääbo, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, achieved what many scientists believed to be impossible when, in 2010, he sequenced the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans.

He went on to discover a previously unknown branch of the human family tree by extracting DNA from a 40,000-year-old finger bone found in a cave in Siberia. The new hominid was named Denisova after the location in which the bone was discovered.

Family tree: Professor Pääbo used DNA from bone fragments to chart human evolution. Image: Nobel Foundation

Announcing the award, Professor Nils-Göran Larsson, Chair of the Nobel Committee, said: “His discoveries help us to understand homo sapiens, present-day humans. This is a very fundamental, big discovery.

“On average, you and I have one to two per cent Neanderthal DNA… [they] are our closest extinct relatives that now have been defined at the genome level. Over the years to come, this will give huge insights into human physiology.”

Neanderthal people became extinct in Europe 30,000 years ago, only a few millennia after the appearance of modern humans. This prompted scientists to speculate that their disappearance may have been due to conflict with homo sapiens.

Winning Nobel Prizes in the Physiology and Medicine category is something of a family tradition for Professor Pääbo – his father, biochemist Sune Bergström, won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1982. It’s the ninth time that a child of a Nobel laureate has also won a prize.

Nobel Prize in Physics

Scientists Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for experiments in quantum mechanics that laid the groundwork for rapidly-developing new applications in computing and cryptography.

“Their results have cleared the way for new technology based upon quantum information,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said of the laureates: Aspect, who is French, Clauser, an American and Zeilinger, an Austrian.

The scientists all conducted experiments into quantum entanglement, where two particles are linked regardless of the space between them, a field that unsettled Albert Einstein himself, who once referred to it in a letter as “spooky action at a distance”.

“I’m very happy… I first started this work back in 1969, and I’m happy to still be alive to be able to get the prize,” Clauser, 79, told Reuters by phone from his home in Walnut Creek, California.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the metaverse?

Experts believe that the metaverse will come to represent the next major computing platform, transforming consumer experience and business models across industries.

Fashion brands are one example. Over years, apparel companies have perfected the design, manufacture, and distribution of clothing to anticipate consumers’ wants and needs in line with seasonal changes. But today, most of their revenue is surpassed by the $3bn worth of sales of digital cosmetic items in Fortnite, which have a cultural significance that extends far into the physical world.

This is one of the economic opportunities of the metaverse – the possibility to “assetize” digital content, creating a framework of digital ownership for users. If it is replicated at scale and across sectors, then entire industries will be reshaped by changes to their traditional value chains.

However, the promise relies on the advancement of several key technologies, including augmented, virtual and mixed reality (collectively known as XR), as well as blockchain, connected devices and artificial intelligence. How should these be governed in a way that promotes their economic upsides while protecting individuals’ safety, security and privacy?

The World Economic Forum is bringing together leading voices from the private sector, civil society, academia and government to address this precise question. Over the next year, it will curate a multistakeholder community focusing on metaverse governance and economic and social value creation.

It will recommend regulatory frameworks for good governance of the metaverse and study how innovation and value creation can be strengthened for the benefit of society. Updates will be published on the World Economic Forum website on a regular basis.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Carolyn Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and Barry Sharpless have won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry ‘for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry.’

Past chemistry winners include well-known scientific names such as Marie Curie, who also shared the physics prize with her husband and whose eldest daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, won the chemistry award just over two decades after her mother.

“This year’s Prize in Chemistry deals with not overcomplicating matters, instead working with what is easy and simple. Functional molecules can be built even by taking a straightforward route,” says Johan Åqvist, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

The award is Sharpless’s second Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Notable Nobel Laureates

The Prizes were first awarded in 1901 by The Nobel Foundation, a private institution established in 1900, to carry out the wishes of Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died in 1896.

He left the bulk of his fortune in trust to establish the international awards that bear his name. To date, Nobel Prizes have been awarded 609 times to 975 people and organizations, or 943 individuals and 25 organizations if you count those who have won twice.

Undoubtedly all Nobel Prize winners deserve to be famous but here are some of the best known:

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  • Marie Curie (Physics 1903, Chemistry 1911) for her work on radioactivity (1903) and for discovering radium and polonium (1911).
  • Albert Einstein (Physics 1921) “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”.
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (Peace 1917, 1944, 1963).
  • Sir Alexander Fleming (Physiology or Medicine 1945) for discovering penicillin the foundation for the development of all modern antibiotics.
  • James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins (Physiology or Medicine, 1962) for discovering the helix structure of DNA. The award caused controversy because it overlooked the contribution of Rosalind Franklin whose research was vital to their discovery. In 2019 Watson was stripped of the prize over comments he made about race.
  • Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. (Peace, 1964) awarded for his work on civil rights in the United States. At the time he was aged 35, the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. He gave the $54,123 to the civil rights movement but was assassinated in 1968, just four years after receiving the award.
  • Gabriel García Márquez (Literature, 1982) for “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev (Peace 1990) for his role in bringing the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West to a peaceful conclusion.
  • Nelson Mandela (Peace, 1993), South Africa’s first Black president who brought about an end to apartheid and shared his prize with the country’s last white president F.W. De Klerk who handed over power peacefully.
  • Former US President Jimmy Carter (Peace, 2002) “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development”.
  • Malala Yousafzai (Peace, 2014) an educational campaigner and the youngest ever Nobel Laureate who won the prize after being shot and severely wounded by a Taliban gunman for defying their ban on female education. She now heads the Malala fund that campaigns for female education rights worldwide.

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