A Prize for the Benefit of Mankind

People around the world are familiar with the prestigious Nobel Prize—an achievement award offered to persons who have, as the prize’s founder put it, “conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” The prize is offered in six categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace, and economics. 2023’s winners include the following:

  • Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L’Huillier in physics “for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the sturdy of electron dynamics in matter.”
  • Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus, and Aleksey I. Yekimov in chemistry “for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.”
  • Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman in physiology or medicine “for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.”
  • Jon Fosse in literature “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”
  • Narges Mohammadi in peace “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.”
  • Claudia Goldin in economics “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes.”

The Nobel Prize fund was established in the will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor, on November 27, 1895. He left most of his wealth to the fund and was very particular about how the prizes were to be chosen and who was to choose them.

He wrote, “The interest is to be divided into five equal parts and distributed as follows: one part to the person who made the most important discovery in the field of physics; one par tot the person who made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who, in the field of literature, produced the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction; and one part to the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.”

These five prizes were first awarded in 1901. The prize in economics was established in 1968 by the Swedish bank, Sveriges Riksbank, in memory of Alfred Nobel and has been awarded with the rest since that time.

The winners of the Nobel prizes are chosen by committees from establishments identified by Alfred Nobel. The Swedish Academy of Sciences chooses for physics and chemistry. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm chooses for physiology or medicine. The Swedish Academy chooses for literature, and the Norwegian Sorting chooses for peace. Nobel specifically noted that “no consideration be given to nationality, but that the prize be awarded to the worthiest person.”

Thousands of nominations are sent to these committees every year, and they do intense research into the accomplishments of each nominee before choosing the winner. The winners are announced in autumn and awarded the prize on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Some notable winners of the Nobel Prize are Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Ernest Hemingway, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama.

Learn more here:

  1. https://www.nobelprize.org/all-nobel-prizes-2023/
  2. https://www.nobelprize.org/alfred-nobel/alfred-nobels-will/
  3. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-nobel-prizes-awarded
  4. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Nobel-Prize/The-prizes
  5. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alfred-Nobel

September History Hits: Famous September Birthdays

According to the U.S. Social Security Administrations, of the 10 most popular birthdays among Americans, 9 of them are in the month of September. If you have a September birthday, you are in good company. This month has seen the births of hosts of famous figures throughout history, including politicians, artists, and innovators.

Here are a few influential people born in the month of September:

Marquis de Lafayette was born September 6, 1757 to a noble family in France. At the young age of 19, Lafayette traveled to America to fight with the colonists in the American Revolution. He was a close friend of George Washington and convinced the French to send aid to the colonists, leading to the defeat of the British army. He was also an influential figure in the French Revolution and composed the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” the credo adopted by the revolutionary National Assembly.

Jane Addams was born September 6, 1860. The second woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, Addams is seen as a pioneer in the field of social work. She opened Hull House in Chicago which was part childcare center, part night school, public kitchen, gymnasium, and library. She worked with boards and charities in the Chicago area to educate people about childbirth and proper hygiene and sanitation.

Agatha Christie, born September 15, 1890, is considered the best-selling novelist of all time. Christie wrote 74 novels, most of them detective novels. Some of her most notable were The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Murder on the Orient Express, each featuring her iconic main character, Hercule Poirot. Her personal life was almost as mysterious as her books—Agatha Christie famously disappeared for 10 days in 1926, though nobody knows exactly where she went or why. Christie’s novels and characters have been adapted in television, movies, books, and plays. Known as the “Queen of Crime,” she helped to pioneer the detective trope that is so popular today.

Jim Henson was born on September 24, 1936. Henson became interested in puppetry while in college. He and his wife, Jane, created a show called Sam and Friends that appeared on a local television channel. It was as part of this show that Henson first created the iconic character Kermit the Frog. His characters became more and more popular, appearing on commercials and other nationally famous television shows. In 1969, Henson signed with Children’s Television Workshop, and they created the still-running children’s television show, Sesame Street.  Here, Henson created characters recognized throughout the world, like Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch. In the 1970s, Henson created The Muppet Show. Kermit, Miss. Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo won Henson worldwide renown and several major entertainment awards.

These are just a few of the many notable people born in the month of September who have left great legacies across the world. What other famous figures born in September can you think of?

Learn more here:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/19/business/20leonhardt-table.html?_r=1
  2. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marquis-de-Lafayette/The-French-Revolution
  3.  https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1931/addams/biographical/
  4. https://www.agathachristie.com/about-christie#discover-more
  5. https://www.biography.com/movies-tv/jim-henson

Yellowstone/1923: Did Pres. Coolidge Really Have a Bear as a White House Pet?

It’s official, we are all obsessed with Yellowstone and all of the spin-offs including 1923.  One scene in particular caught my eye, it’s when young Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) is reading the newspaper and shares a news item with his uncle, Jake Dutton (Harrison Ford) about Calvin Coolidge having a bear as a pet in the White House.

I assumed it was true, but wanted to verify, so I searched this particular event on The New York Times “TimesMachine” and confirmed that indeed, President Coolidge had a brown bear as a pet.

On Tuesday, October 23rd, according to the article, R.B. Pearson drove up to the White House with two brown bears in a cage from Chihuahua, Mexico.  Mr. Pearson told President Coolidge that the larger of the two bears had been captured while it was in the process of killing a horse.

The description of Mr. Pearson is particularly entertaining, “(he)…wore his hair very long. He had on leather breeches tucked into top booths.  His head was surmounted by a broad-brimmed sombrero.”

The bears were evidently a gift to Coolidge who agreed to accept only one (likely the smaller one), while the other bear was to be taken to the Bronx Zoo in New York.  According to the article, Pearson captured the bears in the Mexican Sierras with his lariat (lasso) and had no regular home having “spent most of his life on the old Oregon Trail.”

I wish Jack Dutton would have read that portion of the article as he could have made a great comment about his grandparents also following the Oregon Trail (1883).

Coincidentally, Coolidge also had a famous pet raccoon named Rebecca. The Coolidge family received the raccoon to be cooked for Thanksgiving Dinner (yuck!) in 1926, but decided to keep it as a pet instead.

So, the bear story is true and we have added a raccoon, what other historical facts should we verify from the Yellowstone franchise?

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/1923/10/23/archives/coolidge-has-bear-as-white-house-pet-old-plainsman-motors-3500.html?searchResultPosition=1