Promoting a Local Industry – Nobel Generation

So I saw a nice sign in the Raleigh Durham airport a while ago: “Congratulations to Prof Oliver Smithies of UNC Chapel Hill for the 2007 Nobel Prize in Medicine”.  There’s something for an area to be proud of!  Chapel Hill counts 7 laureates as staff or graduates, as listed here.

My home town is Boston (well, metropolitan area actually, but close enough), so I fell to wondering how often we could put up such a sign.  Boston-area schools lead the world in the total number of Nobels by associated people with 159 (79 for MIT, 74 for Harvard, 4 for Boston University, 1 forBrandeis and 1 for Wellesley).  New York is a close second with 153 (Columbia 93, NYU 33, Rockefeller U 16, CCNY 10, Fordham 1), and then Chicago with 85 at UC, and Cambridge U. also with 85.

Boston has done pretty well recently.  Here’s a list of people who at least passed through one of the schools here and won in the last ten years:

  • 2009 – Thomas Seitz (HU), Jack Szostak (HU Med)
  • 2008 – Osama Shimomura (BU Med), Martin Chalfie (HU), Roger Tsien (HU)
  • 2007 – Mario Capuecchi (HU)
  • 2006 – Geroge Smoot (MIT), Andrew Fire (MIT), Craig Mello (U Mass Med)
  • 2005 – Roy Glauber (HU), Richar Schrock (MIT)
  • 2004 – Frank Wilczek (MIT)
  • 2003 – Rockerick MacKinnon (HU)
  • 2002 – H. Robert Horvitz (MIT)
  • 2001 Eric Cornell (MIT), Karl Sharpless (MIT)

Would the city ever actually put up a sign congratulating a local winner?  Probably not – it’s a town/gown thing, or maybe a still-festering WASP/Irish conflict.  The city is happy to boast of its sports teams, but perhaps is embarrassed by the Athens of America label.

The local laureates do get one welcome invitation – the Ig Nobel ceremony for discoveries “that cannot, or should not, be reproduced”.  They get to give a speech or offer themselves up in “Win a Date with a Nobelist!” contests.  Maybe a courtly dinner with a starry-eyed undergrad is better than a poster in the airport.

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3 Responses to Promoting a Local Industry – Nobel Generation

  1. dm says:

    Doesn’t Krugman’s economics prize count?

    There are also a couple of Peace prizes awarded to nerdy Harvard alumns in the past few years.

  2. jlredford says:

    The list of affiliations did include Economic and Peace Prizes – I just missed those when I did my yearly counts. Otherwise 2009 would have included two more: Krugman for his time on the faculty of MIT and Obama for graduating from Harvard Law. 2007 would also have added Al Gore for Peace. It would tough to claim those three for the Boston area though!

  3. mtraven says:

    The Bay Area does OK with Berkeley and Stanford, esp if you factor in their relative youth. I don’t know if there are any bragging signs, but Berkeley does give all Nobel laureates a lifetime free parking space.

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