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Or to quote a chemistry PhD student from the University of the Philippines Diliman, “Aside from being a Nobel laureate, how would you want the world to remember you?”

The student is Ian Harvey Arellano and that question is one of the ten most interesting questions according to the NPG (Nature Publishing Group) that was submitted to the Nature’s Nobel Questions-Lindau Answers’ website. There are a total of 205 submitted questions and 14,304 votes are casts. These questions “ranged from scientifc queries about current research and theories, to more general considerations about life, politics, funding, inspiration, and (as with the question of Ian) epitaphs”[1].

How did some of the Nobel Laureates answer ? [2]

Some got answers from their lives, their careers and their passions…

Arno Allan Penzias, Physics 1978

As a frightened young refugee who went on to live the American Dream.

Paul Josef Crutzen, Chemistry 1995

 

 

As the person, who significantly increased knowledge about the processes that determine the distribution of ozone in the atmosphere. And as the scientist who coined the term ‘Anthropocene’: A new geologic epoch dominated by human activities, actually first published in Nature. And as one of the scientists who drew attention to the potentially devastating climatic consequences of a nuclear war, the so-called ‘nuclear winter’. More people would die of the indirect consequences of mass starvation and disease than would be killed by the nuclear bombs.

Harold W. Kroto, Chemistry 1996

I think I would prefer to feel I had made a positive contribution to the education of young people to rec­ognise the truth in general and per­haps to have struck a blow against the irrational forces which are pres­ently undermining the Enlighten­ment, democracy and the freedom of individuals.

Peter Agre, Chemistry 2003

 

 

The Nobel prize may be more important for science than for the individual laureate. I often surprise people by ask­ing them to name the Nobel prize winners in 2003 (my year). Usually, they cannot remember any names, which is a demon­stration that even a Nobel prize guarantees only a footnote in history books. At the end of my life, I will be happy to be remembered as a scientist who loved the natural world and loved his family.

Some are modest…

Christian René de Duve, Physiology or Medicine 1974

I have no such ambition. In the his­tory of science, my contributions are minor and would have been made by someone else had I not stumbled on them first. They already appear in textbooks without mention of my name. I am no Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein or Watson and Crick. But I have had fun and have been rewarded beyond my deserts. So be it.

And some are even more modest…

George Fitzgerald Smoot, Physics 2006

 

I do not think the world will remember any of us. When you work in cosmology, you think with a perspective of billions of years. How many people do we remem­ber from 1,000 years ago? How many from 10,000 years ago? How many from 1 million years ago? etc. So now the question is more like that about Ozymandias [from Percy Shelley’s poem]. After a thousand or so years nothing is left of the great works but a few broken relics. What will be left in a billion years? The point is not about being remem­bered or about doing science to win a Nobel prize — you do science because you want to be a scientist. Likewise, you live your life in a way you think is good and good for you.

Interestingly, Ian is the lone Filipino participant in the ASEAN delegation to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings which was held last 27 June to 3 July 2010.  The meeting which is celebrating its 6oth year,  gives opportunities for young researchers to meet 60 Nobel Prize winners.  The aim of the meeting is to inspire future scientific leaders.


So, how would you want the world to remember you?

[1] M. Grayson, Curiosity aroused in Outlook: Masterclass, Nature 467 52 (2010).
[2] Nature Outlook: Science Masterclass, H. Brody ed., Vol 467,  Issue No. 7317 (2010). This is free to access! click here.
[3] Images (except for the medal) are from the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting’s website

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