Nobel Course Outline for Winter 2012

See also

 and the Nomination Database


Week 1. Introduction: course business and sources.       

            List of prizes, Bibliography, and discussion.

Read the Will of Alfred Nobel (1 page) in course pack.

Examine Damadian advertisments in NYTimes in course pack

Judson, H. F. 2003. “No Nobel for Whining.” New York Times, 20 October


Week 2. Alfred Nobel and the Dynamite Idea


1. Alfred Nobel biography at the Nobel website: (See miniproject below)

2. Luttenberger, Franz. "Excellence and Chance: The Nobel Prize; Case of E. Von Behring and É. Roux." HIstory and Philosophy of Life Sciences 18 (1996): 225-38.

3. Zuckerman, Harriet. "The Sociology of the Nobel Prizes."  Scientific American 217.5 (1967): 23-33.

4. Zuckerman, Harriet. "The Sociology of the Nobel Prize: Further Notes and Queries." American Scientist 66.Jul-Aug (1978): 420-425.

Miniproject select any other biography of Nobel be prepared to briefly analyze it in class in comparison to the short history biography at the Nobel Prize website. (use LIBRARY!)



What is a discovery in the history and philosophy of science and medicine?

Pt I Paradigms, Normal Science, and Chance

Pt II Sociology of Science: Competition, Priority, and Conflict


1. Duffin, J. “Poisoning the Spindle,” Can Bull Med Hist 2000, excerpt

2. Excerpts from Merton, Robert K. The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. Ed. Robert K. Merton. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1973.  

a) "Singletons and Multiples in Science [1961]."  352-364.

b) "Priorities in Scientific Discovery [1957]."  286-324 and

3. Brannigan, Augustine. The Social Basis of Scientific Discoveries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981, 59-62, , 70-78.

Mini-project: look into the history of your favorite discovery in your own discipline— history, biochem, anatomy, etc (ask a prof if you don’t have one)—relate that discovery to the readings below.


Week 4 A Nobel prize—1923, Insulin: Macleod and Banting.

Relate the history of this prize according to Bliss to the readings of the previous weeks.

Readings:   Michael Bliss, The Discovery of Insulin


Week 5 A Nobel prize—1962, Structure of DNA: Watson, Crick, and Wilkins. Relate the history of this prize according to Watson to the readings of weeks 1-4.


1. Book James D. Watson. The Double Helix

2. Klug, A. 1974. “Rosalind Franklin and the Double Helix.” Nature 248(451): 787-788.

3. Stroh, Michael. 2003. “50th Anniversary for ‘secret of life.’” Toronto Star 27 Feb. A4.

4. Johnson, George. 2007 “Bright Scientists; Dim Notions [Watson resigns]. New York Times, 28 October.


Week 6-11 student presentations on selected Nobel prizes

Presenting students must provide one article for all their classmates to read in advance of the presentation.

Readings TBA—number of weeks depends on course enrolment

Students may collaborate. Two students have double the presentation time of one student.




Week  12 Nobel Laureates as philosophers, priests, mavericks, & crooks.  And

Discussion of major papers on the prizes.  ESSAY #2 DUE

Recognition and Commemoration as an act of creation.


1. Medawar, Peter. "Can Scientific Discovery Be Premeditated?" The Limits of Science. New York: Harper and Row, 1984. 45-54

2. On Kary Mullis: "No Proof HIV Causes AIDS, Says Speaker [Mullis]: Biochemist Describes AZT as a Poison." Globe and Mail October 19 1998,: A9; "Nobel Scientist [Mullis] Questions Cause of AIDS: Us Chemist Says He Doubts HIV to Blame." Toronto Star. (1998): A15.

3. Mims, C. 1976.” Antipodean. Carleton Gajdusek’s attainments stretch beyond virology.” Nature 263: 716-17.

4. McCarthy, M. "Nobel Prize Winner Gadjusek Admits Child Abuse." Lancet 349 (1997): 623.

5. Sun, M. "At Long Last, Dr Pauling Lands NCI Grant [News]." Science 212 (1981): 1126-7.

6. Horgan, John. "Profile: Francis H. Crick, the Mephistopheles of Neurobiology." Scientific American.February (1992): 32-33.
6. Various other readings.

7. Anon. 2003 Duranty’s Award [Pulitzer], Globe and Mail 25 Oct. 2003

8. Comic book on Alexis Carrel.

   9. Abbadessa G. et 106 al. 2009  Unsung hero Robert C. Gallo. Science. 323(5911):206-7.

10. Charlton BG. 2007. Why there should be more science Nobel prizes and laureates - And why proportionate credit should be awarded to institutions. [Editorial] Medical Hypotheses. 68(3):471-3.

11. Davidson, Amy. Ralph Steinman; Death and the Nobel. The New Yorker, 3 October 2011.