Nobel Prize Winners Inspired by Human Suffering

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Nobel Prize
The Nobel laureates for the year 2015 were announced during the week ending Oct. 9, 2015. True to the testamentary intention of Alfred Nobel, this year’s winners, like many before them, have been adjudged to have “conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.” The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a coalition of civil society groups, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while Svetlana Alexievich was rewarded for her literary works in the Literature category. As for the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physics, and Medicine or Physiology, the Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded them to eight laureates for their groundbreaking work in the Sciences category.

In a press statement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee acknowledged the Tunisian coalition for its “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011,” as the reason for the award. Four groups which make up the civic society are the Tunisian General Labor Union, Tunisian Order of Lawyers, Tunisian Human Rights League, and Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts. The Nobel Prize winners were commended for their courage to lead Tunisians towards a peaceful path to democracy.

Their efforts to democratize their country have widely been seen as pivotal in stopping a potential civil war during the Arab Spring. Wided Bouchamaoui, president of Tunisian Employers’ Union, told reporters, “This award is for all Tunisians for their efforts to stop violence and promote peace.” She then stressed that all efforts should now be focused on improving both social and economic conditions in her country so as to improve humanity.

Alexievich, a Belarusian writer, became the fourteenth woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy said they recognized her unique writing, which opposes anti-Semitic dictators and explores “suffering and courage in our time.” Moreover, Alexievich’s interview-based documentary writing has given voice to the painful narratives of female soldiers during the World War II. She also expertly used the same approach in Zinky Boys and portrayed the anguish of mothers who lost their sons in the “senseless invasion of Afghanistan” by the Soviet Union. The Nobel Prize Committee also noted her contribution to the misery caused by the 1986 nuclear disaster in Voices From Chernobyl. Alexievich’s portrayal of the disaster through the eyes of the ordinary citizens, exposed to the world how the Soviet authorities failed to manage the nuclear disaster on Apr. 26, 1986. Speaking to Radio Free Europe, Alexievich dedicated the Nobel Prize to her country, Belarus, and its culture, which has been “caught in a grinder throughout history.”

A trio shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry–Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich, and Aziz Sancar–were awarded the prize for their groundbreaking discovery of how to repair damaged DNA as well as the development of new cancer drugs. The trio conducted their research independently from each other with the main objective of providing a “toolbox for DNA repair.” In the Physics category, two scientists shared the Nobel Prize for their incisive discovery of neutrinos. The Japanese scientist, Takaaki Kajita, and Arthur B. McDonald of Canada managed to show how the change of mass in neutrinos aided in understanding the “structure and future of the universe.”

William C. Campbell of Ireland and Satoshi Omura, a Japanese microbiologist, were jointly awarded the prestigious award for their discovery of the treatment of parasitic infections. The third winner in the Medicine category was Youyou Tu of China. She was lauded for her experiments that led to the discovery of better treatment methods of malaria. The trio’s discoveries have changed the medical landscape, especially in the way tropical diseases are diagnosed and treated. According to World Health Organization, failure to cure malaria as well as parasitic infections result in human suffering and these Nobel Prize winners should be commended for their efforts.

Meanwhile, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Angus Deaton, a Briton, for his “analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare.” Deaton, a professor of Economics at Princeton University, is one of the Nobel Prize winners who has been inspired by government policies that address poverty, which has caused extreme human suffering, especially in developing nations. A Nobel Prize is worth 8 million Swedish Kronor, which is almost $972,000.

By Shepherd Mutsvara
Edited by Leigh Haugh

Vox World: The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Explained
CNN: Boost for Arab Spring: Tunisian Dialogue Quartet Win Nobel Peace Prize
Wall Street Journal: Nobel Prize in Literature Awarded to Svetlana Alexievich
Image Courtesy of Canada Science and Technology Museum’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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