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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Nobel Prize and Science - The credits and controversies.

Nobel Prize and Science - The credits and controversies.

Controversies, criticisms, complaints, manipulations, politics etc are part of any or every activity or venture. That does not mean that the whole activity is wrong nor it need to deter people carrying out the activity.

However, having said that, when the activity is a very highly valued or hyped or gets a huge mileage then the beneficiaries will be scrutinized intensely and expectation will be very high from them. On the flip side glaring omissions will be magnified and publicized enormously.

Nobel prizes are one such activity. The value that is attached to it is immense. When I discuss Nobel prizes I would like to exclude Nobel Peace prizes because the less we talk about it the better it is.

Irving Wallace wrote in detail all the dirty politics and rigging that goes on in the Nobel committee many years ago in two of his much researched  wonderful books ‘The Prize’ and ‘The writing of one Novel’.

Unfortunately what happens is that like unrecorded historical events, undocumented great ideas, the unrecognized scientific achievements get neglected and it also de-motivates the scientists.

Similar is the case with the controversies surrounding many patents. I shall give an example for this from one of my articles that I wrote for the Indian Express some 25 years back.

Here are some interesting links involving the controversies of Nobel prize

Regarding patents

“For example as early as 601 AD in the Vaghbata complied by Indian physicians there is mention about the medicinal herb ‘RAUWOLFIA SERPENTINA’ and only in 1949 in the prestigious British  Heart Journal an Indian physician Rustom Jal Vakil published that powdered root of ‘RAUWOLFIA SERPENTINA  is very effective in lowering blood pressure. Then in 1952 Reserpine was isolated by Swiss chemist employed by CIBA under the direction of Emil Schlitter who produced pure crystals of active ingredient in ‘RAUWOLFIA SERPENTINA and Boston heart specialist Robert Wallace Wilkins observed that Reserpine not only reduced blood pressure but also reduced anxiety. Now to whom will you give the Patents’? Leave alone all the controversies surrounding the product itself.
Unfortunately the things are further complicated, especially in the field of science, by the nexus and fights between industry and academia. While one of it has credibility the other has incredible influence. They generate with the help of media and publicity wings many questions of morality versus utility etc and the ultimate causality is truth.

Justin Pollard’s book titled BOFINOLOGY which reveals the ugly ‘the real stories behind our greatest scientific discoveries’ like for example ‘”Archimedes never said ‘Eureka’ and hated baths anyway”, Thales “credited as ‘the father of science’, whose only real claim to fame is that he often fell into ditches” and this book reveals how eleven people have claimed to have invented the stream engine etc
However, beyond all these dirty politics and polluting trends and catastrophic cultures ,still , if there is any field of activity that has helped humanity’s advance more tangibly meaningful and life in general more comfortable and brought people out of their caves of blind beliefs and trite traditions and helped them to see and savor the world with ease and in better ways than all the rest the credit must go and still goes to scientific inventions, discoveries and the multiple technologies that they have given to the world. In short it is a supra religion, along with bold philosophical inquiries, which has pushed aside the many useless diatribes of centuries of religious edicts, narrow ethnocentric pronouncements and bluffs of history which were irrelevant to life.

Life is an unmapped atlas which gets its maps based on our choices, beliefs, actions, reactions, thoughts, attitudes etc and it is our hands to make each one of these continents as great and as good as possible.

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