Bringing Distinction and Honor to the
the years, 22 Nobel laureates have been associated with Washington
University. Many served as distinguished faculty members while doing
their award-winning work; some were graduate students; and one was
the grandson of a University co-founder.
place like Washington University dedicates itself to fostering vibrant
and vital academic, creative, and scientific endeavors, the resulting
work is sure to garner attention. And when an institution like the
Nobel Foundation recognizes world-class accomplishments in physics,
chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, economic sciences,
and peace, the name Washington University is sure to appear regularly.
That is exactly what has happened.
In a world that seems to have an award for virtually
any accomplishment, from the sublime to the silly, the Nobel Prize
stands above and apart. Its high standards for selection make it
the gold standard. That is why the number of Nobel laureates a university
has nurtured is one way to measure its own academic standing.
In 1967, an article in Scientific American
compared the number of Nobel laureates at American institutions.
At the time, Washington University ranked seventh among the top
10 with six laureates. The magazine was meticulous in its choices
and matched the institutions' laureates in four ways: where the
individuals received their doctoral degrees; where they did the
prize-winning work; where they were working when they received the
prize; and their current affiliation. Based on these criteria, the
magazine identified the scholars who completed their prize-winning
research at Washington University from 1927 to 1959 as Arthur Holly
Compton, Joseph Erlanger, Herbert S. Gasser, Carl F. Cori, Gerty
T. Cori, and Arthur Kornberg.
Impressive? Yes. But this academic A-list has
continued to lengthen from 1927 to the present. Above all, the men
and women of Washington University who have been recognized with
a Nobel should be remembered for their very real and important accomplishments
that have earned them a place in history.
1927 Arthur Holly
Arthur Holly Compton was a man whose illustrious
career was filled with successesfrom academic to scientific
to leadership. In 1960, his biography in Who's Who in America
filled half a column. At Washington University, it fills an entire
chapter of its history. He was the Wayman Crow Professor of Physics
from 1920 to 1923. From his laboratory in Eads Hallquite modest
by today's standardsCompton investigated the dual nature of
X-rays. He noticed that an X-ray, or radiation, which has the same
wave properties as visible light, also behaves like a particle.
This became known as the "Compton effect." His work later earned
him the 1927 Nobel Prize for Physics. Compton left the University
in 1923 for the University of Chicago. During World War II, he was
instrumental in the creation of the first nuclear chain reaction,
which led to the development of the first atomic bomb. Compton returned
to Washington University as chancellor in 1945, serving in that
capacity until 1953. He then assumed the title "Distinguished Service
Professor of Natural Philosophy," a title he held until his retirement
in 1961. He was also known as an excellent educator, philosopher,
humanitarian, and, by some accounts, a virtuoso on the banjo.
1943 Edward A.
Edward A. Doisy was a member of the Washington University School
of Medicine from 1919 to 1923. He shared the 1943 Nobel Prize for
Physiology or Medicine with a Danish scientist "for their discovery
of the chemical nature of vitamin K."
1944 Joseph Erlanger
and Herbert S. Gasser
||Herbert S. Gasser
The teamwork of Joseph Erlanger and Herbert Spencer
Gasser earned them the 1944 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
These men studied, among other interests, the electrophysiology
of the nerves. Using the then-new low-voltage cathode-ray oscillograph,
they investigated the conductivity rates of different groups of
nerves. According to Gasser's Nobel Foundation biography, "The work
led to advances in our knowledge of the mechanism of pain and of
reflex action and has inspired a large school of neurophysiologists."
Erlanger was the chair of the Department of Physiology
from 1910 to 1946. Gasser was a member of the medical school faculty
from 1916 to 1931.
1947 Carl F.
Cori and Gerty T. Cori
Carl F. Cori and his wife Gerty T. Cori received a Nobel Prize for
Physiology or Medicine for their isolation of phosphorylase, an
enzyme that starts the body's conversion of glucose into glycogen,
or animal starch into sugar. Their combined work furthered understanding
of human metabolism, including metabolic disorders, such as diabetes.
Their lab also furthered the research of Arthur Kornberg, Severo
Ochoa, and Luis F. Leloirall Nobel laureatesas well
as William H. Danforth, chancellor emeritus of the University.
|Gerty T. Cori and Carl F. Cori
Carl Cori was a member of the School of Medicine
faculty from 1931 to 1964. He served as professor of pharmacology
and, later, head of biochemistry. Gerty Cori was a member of the
School of Medicine faculty from 1931 until her death in 1957.
1959 Arthur Kornberg
and Severo Ochoa
Much of the work being done today in how genetic information is
duplicated and then passed on to the next generation owes more than
a nod to the research conducted by Arthur Kornberg and Severo Ochoa.
These associates at the School of Medicine were awarded the Nobel
Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1959 "for their discovery of
the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and
deoxyribonucleic acid [DNA]." They performed some of their research
in conjunction with Carl and Gerty Cori. Kornberg was chair of the
Department of Microbiology from 1952 to 1959. Ochoa was on the medical
school faculty from 1941 to 1942.
1969 Alfred Day
Alfred Day Hershey spent the first 16 years of his career from 1934
to 1950 at the School of Medicine. He shared the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine in 1969 with two researchers from other institutions.
Together, they were cited "for their discoveries concerning the
replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses."
1970 Luis F.
Luis F. Leloir was a member of the School of Medicine faculty
for one year1944. But the work he accomplished at the University
helped lay the foundation for research that led to the 1970 Nobel
Prize in Chemistry. He was chosen "for his discovery of sugar nucleotides
and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates."
The T.S. Eliot Connection
Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot and his
groundbreaking poetry are not directly tied to Washington
University, yet there is a strong connection that is important
to note. Born in St. Louis, Eliot was the grandson of William
Greenleaf Eliot (co-founder of Washington University), and
he received his high school diploma from Smith Academy, a
boys' college preparatory division of Washington University.
Transforming modern poetry with such
works as The Waste Land and The Four Quartets,
Eliot received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. He returned
to St. Louis in 1953, from his adopted home in London, to
deliver a lecture at the University in honor of its centennial.
In 1988, the University sponsored an Eliot centenary conference,
and today the University co-sponsors, with the Institute of
United States Studies of the University of London, an annual
T.S. Eliot Lecture.
1971 Earl Sutherland
Earl Sutherland, M.D. '42, received the 1971 Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine "for his discoveries concerning the mechanisms of the
action of hormones." At the time, he was the first recipient in
11 years who did not share the prize. Sutherland was a resident
in internal medicine at the School of Medicine from 1943 to 1945
and was on the medical school faculty from 1945 to 1953.
Christian de Duve shared the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physiology or
Medicine with two other scientists "for their discoveries concerning
the structural and functional organization of the cell." Their accomplishments
contributed to the creation of modern cell biology. He was a fellow
in the medical school from 1946 to 1947.
1978 Daniel Nathans
and Hamilton O. Smith
Daniel Nathans, M.D. '54, and Hamilton O. Smith, a member of the
Washington University Medical Service from 1956 to 1957, shared
the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with a Swiss colleague.
They received the prize "for their discovery of restriction enzymes
that helped provide new tools for the detailed chemical analysis
of the mechanism of gene action."
1980 Paul Berg
Paul Berg won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry "for his fundamental
studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard
to recombinant-DNA." He was a member of the medical school faculty
from 1954 to 1959.
1980 George D.
George D. Snell shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine
with two other colleagues. Snell introduced the concept of H antigens
and identified the genetic factors that relate to the transplantation
of tissue from one individual to another. Snell was a member of
the University's Arts & Sciences faculty from 1933 to 1934.
Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini
Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini were awarded
the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries of nerve
growth factor and epidermal growth factorboth of fundamental
importance to understanding the mechanisms that regulate cell and
organ growth. Their discoveries brought about an increased understanding
of many disease states and the development of new therapeutic agents.
Cohen and Levi-Montalcini performed their research in the laboratory
of friend and University colleague, Viktor Hamburger.
Cohen was a member of the Arts & Sciences faculty
from 1953 to 1959. Levi-Montalcini was an Arts & Sciences faculty
member from 1948 to her retirement in 1977, when she became professor
1992 Edwin G.
Edwin G. Krebs, M.D. '43, was named a co-winner of the Nobel Prize
for Physiology or Medicine for his work with cell proteins. From
1945 to 1948, he was a resident in internal medicine and a research
fellow in biological chemistry for Carl and Gerty Cori in the area
Douglass C. North spent 50 years examining the
complex questions of why some countries become rich while others
remain poor. His efforts were rewarded when he was named a co-recipient
of the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred
Nobel "for having renewed research in economic history by applying
economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic
and institutional change." North, the Spencer T. Olin Professor
in Arts & Sciences, has been at the University since 1983. He created
the Center in Political Economy, which, he has written, "continues
to be a creative research center."
1998 Robert F.
Robert F. Furchgott shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine
with two other researchers "for their discoveries concerning nitric
oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system." He
was on the Ph.D. Faculty of Medicine from 1946 to 1956.