Nobel Prize Award for Physiology and Medicine 1966 - 1970

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine from 1966 to 1970 including Huggins, Nirenberg, and Katz, as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1966 Charles B. Huggins (1901- ), American (b. Canada). Work: Treatment of prostate-gland cancer with hormones.

Francis P. Rous (1879-1970), American. Work: Discovery of a cancer virus.

Behind the Award--This was the 1st prize awarded for cancer research since the Fibiger disaster in 1926. Rous was being commended for work he had done 56 years before. Then he showed that malignant connective-tissue tumors in chickens could be transferred to healthy ones. (The tumor is known today as Rous's sarcoma virus, RSV.) When researchers were unable to transfer rat and mouse tumors in the same way, they were skeptical of Rous's findings.

1967 Halden Keffer Hartine (1903- ), American.

George Wald (1906- ), American.

Ragnar A. Granit (1900- ), Swedish (b. Finland). Work: Discoveries about the chemical and physiological processes of the eye.

1968 Robert W. Holley (1922- ), American.

H. Gobind Khorana (c. 1922- ), American (b. India).

Marshall W. Nirenberg (1927- ), American. Work: Discovery relating to the function of enzymes in cells in genetic development.

Behind the Award--A. Hugo Theorell, who won the prize in 1955, said that Holley, Khorana, and Nirenberg had broken the genetic code, which gave man the power to control the physical and perhaps mental makeup of future generations artificially. The 3 men, relatively young, shared a prize of $70,000. A close associate said that Nirenberg was a true genius because he did one thing very well but had trouble driving cars and had been seen to trip over his feet. Nirenberg, who had great concern about the possibly detrimental uses of the discovery, more or less dropped out of sight soon after receiving the award and suffering the attendant publicity. Holley had been a member of the Salk Institute team that 1st synthesized penicillin. Khorana, who was born in Raipur, India, was watching a sunset when told he had been selected for the prize. "I find it difficult to think," he said in a press interview. "I work all the time, but then I guess we all do."

1969 Max Delbruck (1906- ), American (b. Germany).

Alfred D. Hershey (1908- ), American.

Salvador E. Luria (1912- ), American (b. Italy). Work: Discoveries about genetic structure of viruses.

Behind the Award--When Delbruck found out at 5 A.M. that he had been chosen for the prize, he took a tranquilizer, then played the piano. He and Hershey and Luria were being rewarded for work they had done 25 years before, work that proved to be a model for studying ways viruses attack cells. They did their work separately, but were in communication with each other.

1970 Bernard Katz (1911- ), British.

Ulf von Euler (1905- ), Swedish.

Julius Axelrod (1912- ), American.

Work: Discoveries about nerve fiber substances.

Behind the Award--When Axelrod arrived at the dentist one November morning, the dentist told him, "Julie, you've won the Nobel Prize!" Because the dentist was a great kidder, Axelrod did not believe him. Later, with cotton in his mouth, he received a telephone call from a radio station wanting his reaction. Only then did he believe the news. Chief of pharmacology at the National Institute for Mental Health, Axelrod had had a tough time early in his career. Born on the Lower East Side of New York City, he failed to gain admission to medical school because of the Jewish quota. One of his 1st research papers was turned down by Nature, a British journal. To celebrate the Nobel Prize, his colleagues threw a champagne party for him, in spite of government regulations, at which he said, "Now I'm going to send out all my lousy papers to be published--I've got a notebook full of them." Von Euler, the 3rd Swede to win the medicine prize, also had a champagne party, his at the Royal Caroline Institute. Katz, when told the news, was so sleepy he had to take a cold shower before he could comprehend what had happened.

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