No Rest for Caltech's Nobelists

Published : Sunday, October 2, 2016 | 6:46 PM

Left to Right: Robert A. Millikan (1868- 1953) Nobel Prize in Physics in 1923; David Baltimore (1938-) Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975; Rudolph A. Marcus (1923-) Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1992; Robert H. Grubbs (1942-) Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005; Credit: Caltech

If you were to write the life story of a Nobel laureate, you might be forgiven for wanting to make the early morning call and its immediate aftermath the zenith of the story’s arc, followed by little more than a tuxedo, a speech presented before Swedish royalty, and several bottles of champagne.

You’d be wrong, but you’d be forgiven.

For the vast majority of the 34 Caltech faculty and alumni who have together won 35 Nobels—Linus Pauling (PhD ’25) being the Institute’s dual laureate, with a 1954 prize in chemistry and a 1962 peace prize—the award is just the beginning, an avenue-opening, support-generating, idea-spawning opportunity for a second, and sometimes a third or fourth, act.

Caltech’s Nobelists have picked up prizes only to switch fields, revisit dead-end questions, or dig deeper into the work that garnered them the award in the first place. They’ve gone birdwatching, fought for recognition of the dangers of radiation to the human body, worked to revamp education, and been named president of the California Institute of Technology.

In other words, they’ve taken the Nobel Prize, and the opportunities and possibilities it affords, and made the very most of them.

For more on where Caltech’s Nobel laureates have gone, what they’ve done, and how they’ve impacted our world, read No Rest for a Nobelist in the Spring 2016 issue of Caltech’s E&S magazine.

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