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.