The “Nobel Population” in Pharmacology: Nobel Prize laureates, nominees and nominators 1901–1953 with a focus on B. Naunyn and O. Schmiedeberg

Abstract

One way to investigate research trends in pharmacology over time is to study nominations for the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Going beyond the laureates with strong links to pharmacology, this article pinpoints pharmacologist Nobel Prize nominees during the first half of the twentieth century with a particular focus on two co-founders of this journal: Oswald Schmiedeberg and Bernhard Naunyn. Using the Nobel nomination database which contains more than 5000 nominations in the category physiology or medicine from 1901 to 1953, we listed all scholars (Nobel nominees or nominators) who worked in a pharmacological institute. In addition, we collected nomination letters of Schmiedeberg and Naunyn in the archive of the Nobel committee for physiology or medicine in Stockholm to explore nomination networks and motives. The most often nominated pharmacologists from 1901 to 1953 were Alfred Newton Richards with 57 nominations, Rudolf Magnus (31), Edward Calvin Kendall (28), Otto Loewi (27), Sir Henry Hallett Dale (21) and Oswald Schmiedeberg (18). Surprisingly, the lion’s share of the nominations was submitted by non-pharmacologists. We observed a decline in German nominations after World War II and an increase in US-American nominations, which indicates shifting centres and peripheries in pharmacological research. Furthermore, in our observed group of pharmacologists, there was no female nominee from 1901 to 1953. Nobel Prize nominations are to date an underused source to explore international scientific trends as well as scientific networks during the twentieth century.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Nobel Media AB (2019) Nobel Prize Archive http://nominationarchive.nobelprize.org/nomination/archive/index.html. Accessed December 7, 2019

  2. 2.

    Original text in the nomination “… Es sind viel weniger die klassischen und hervorragenden Arbeiten des Betreffenden, ... als vielmehr die Tatsache, dass O. Schmiedeberg als der eigentliche Gründer der modernen Pharmakologie bezeichnet werden kann ...”

  3. 3.

    Original text in the nomination “… Seine Arbeiten liegen verborgen in denen seiner Schüler, die in der ganzen Welt zerstreut die Schmiedeberg’schen Ansichten fruchtbringend verpflanzt haben. Es gibt wenige Forscher in der Medizin, die auf eine so erfolgreiche Schule blicken dürfen...”

  4. 4.

    Original text in the nomination “… Lehre von Diabetes mellitus wäre heute ohne Naunyns Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der Azidosen und des Pankreasdiabetes ganz undenkbar ...”

  5. 5.

    Original text in the nomination “… die Lehre von der Cholelithiesis. Der Aufbau und die chemische Zusammensetzung ... hat auch für die Lehre von Hirnkrankheiten hervorragendes geleistet ...”

  6. 6.

    Original text in the nomination “… Ich erinnere an Naunyns aus den 70. U. 80-iger Jahren des abgl. Jh. Stammende Untersuchung über den Ikterus ... die einheitliche Entstehung der Gelbsucht aus der Tätigkeit in der Leber ... erwies ...”

  7. 7.

    Original text in the nomination “…. Schon diese Universalität seiner Leistungen lassen ihn m.E. würdig erscheinen .... wenn es aber dazu einer Sonderleistung bedarf .... seinem Verdienste um den Ausbau der Lehre vom Diabetes mellitus erblicken und diese hiermit hervorheben.”

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Nobel Committee for physiology or medicine for providing nomination letters and information. The authors translated quotes from German and Swedish into English.

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NH collected the archival material. NH and MP conceived and designed research. MP and NH wrote the article. Both authors approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Nils Hansson.

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Pohar, M., Hansson, N. The “Nobel Population” in Pharmacology: Nobel Prize laureates, nominees and nominators 1901–1953 with a focus on B. Naunyn and O. Schmiedeberg. Naunyn-Schmiedeberg's Arch Pharmacol 393, 1173–1185 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00210-019-01807-y

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Keywords

  • Pharmacology
  • Nobel Prize
  • Excellence in Pharmacology
  • Bernhard Naunyn
  • Oswald Schmiedeberg.