>There is only one Noble prize in physics that has anything to do
>with the Big Bang-- Penzias and Wilson 1978--and that was an
>accidental discovery not influenced by theoretical work on the early
>universe. Of course, our interpretation of the radiation being the
>remnant of the Big Band may change in the future. My challenge to
>those who know the field of physiology or medicine, etc. is the
>following: What Nobel Prize granted in such fields was the result of
>applications of evolutionary theory? I enclose the press release of
>this year's prize in physiology or medicine. Moorad
I'd say evolutionary _theorIES_ rather than theory.
Hmmm... Are Nobels generally awarded for applications of a theory
or elucidation of the theory itself and/or mechanisms which lead
to the theory? I think it's generally the latter. This is particularly
true for the award in physiology and medicine where Nobels for
research tend to lag the initial discovery until long after
applications are found and the impact of the work is generally
appreciated. The most recent example is Hartwell, Hunt & Nurse;
they got the award about 20 years after the fact.
Note that most Nobels given in relation to organismal biology come
under the area of physiology and medicine, not biology in general.
Consequentially, most are related to the elucidation of fundamental
biochemical mechanisms of organisms. That's why I wouldn't expect
to ever see an award for work in paleontology.
Similarly, most of the work cited relates to studies of evolution
in terms of discovering mechanisms underlying evolution.
Starting from the earliest - Particularly pertinent would be:
1933: Thomas Hunt Morgan's work on fly genomics. His research had
major impact on evolutionary studies and the "Modern synthesis"
in which genetic research was merged with the study of evolution.
During that period, Morgan was thoroughly aware of the relationship
of his work to theories of evolutionary mechanisms.
1946: Hermann Muller's work on Xrays and mutation.
Other, earlier work on the nature of DNA and related biochemical
discoveries included: Lederberg, Beadle & Tatum (1958 - Genetic organization
and mechanisms); Watson, Crick & Wilkins (1962 - Structure of DNA);
Jacob, Lwoff & Monod (1965 - Genetic control mechanisms), Rous
(1966 - Tumor transforming viruses), Khorana, Holley & Nirenberg
(1968 - Genetic code); Delbruck, Luria & Hershey (1969 way too late,
IMHO - Replication & genetics of viruses). All of these have provided
the early foundations for studies of evolutionary genetics and if
one reads their biographies or collections of papers, one will see
that most were aware of the relationships of their work to evolutionary
mechanisms and development.
Perhaps missing from the list of Nobels is Sewall Wright for his
work on inheritance and evolutionary genetics, which never seemed to
clearly fall into the category of "physiology and medicine". The same
could be said for many others.
Outside of the "physiology and medicine" award:
Interestingly, Nobel awards in economics often find application in
evolutionary biology. The study of markets and game theories, which
all involve components of selection, have influenced and have been
influenced by evolutionary biology, particularly behavioral
Note also that there are no Nobel prizes in mathematics. This would
tend to bias against recognition of the areas of neural networks
and applications of genetic algorithms. Such work has received
internationally recognized awards; just never a Nobel (not directly,
Overall, I think it's a tad early to expect Nobels from _applications_
of evolutionary theories. For example, the application of evolutionary
mechanisms to drug design and research is less than a decade old. DNA
computers have been demonstrated but probably won't make it as a
mature technology. Genetic algorithms have found many applications in
engineering but it's still relatively new and not a likely subject for a
Tim Ikeda (email@example.com)
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