Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (Swedish: Nobelpriset i fysiologi eller medicin) administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding contributions in the medical field. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will, the others being for contributions in Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace. Nobel was personally interested in experimental physiology and wanted to establish a prize for progress through scientific discoveries in laboratories. The Nobel prize medal is presented to the recipient(s) by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death, along with a diploma and a certificate for the monetary award. The front side of the medal provides the same profile of Alfred Nobel as depicted on the medals for Physics, Chemistry, and Literature; its reverse side is unique to this medal.

As of 2010, 101 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine have been awarded to 196 men, and 10 women. The first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded in 1901 to the German physiologist Emil Adolf von Behring, for his work on serum therapy and the development of a vaccine against diphtheria. The first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Gerty Cori, received it in 1947 for her role in elucidating the metabolism of glucose, important in developing a treatment for diabetes. In 2010, the prize was awarded to Robert G. Edwards of the United Kingdom for the development of in vitro fertilization.

Some awards have been controversial. This includes one to Antonio Egas Moniz in 1949 for the prefrontal leucotomy, bestowed despite protests from the medical establishment. Other controversies resulted from disagreements over who was included in the award. The 1952 prize to Selman Waksman was litigated in court, and half the patent rights awarded to his co-discoverer Albert Schatz who was not recognized by the prize. The 1962 prize awarded to James D. Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for their work on DNA structure and properties did not acknowledge the contributing work from others, such as Oswald Avery and Rosalind Franklin who had died by the time of the nomination. Since the Nobel Prize rules forbid nominations of the deceased, longevity is an asset, one prize being awarded as long as 50 years after the discovery. Also forbidden is awarding any one prize to more than three recipients, and since in the last half century there has been an increasing tendency for scientists to work as teams, this rule has resulted in controversial exclusions.


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