Philosophical Society of Washington

Minutes of the 2039th Meeting

Speaker: Robert D. Shull, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Topic: “A Week of Experiences at the 1994 Nobel Prize Ceremonies”

The President, Mr. Ohlmacher, called the 2039th meeting to order at 8:18 p.m. on February 3, 1995. The Recording Secretary read the minutes of the 2038th meeting and they were approved. The President then read a portion of the minutes of the 431st meeting February 2, 1895.

The President introduced Mr. Robert D. Shull of the National Institute of Standards and Technology to discuss “A Week of Experiences at the 1994 Nobel Prize Ceremonies”.

Mr. Shull said that he hoped to give an idea of the excitement, fun and awesomeness of attending the Nobel Prize award ceremonies with Mr. Shull's father Clifford G. Shull is the Laureate in Physics for 1994. He began with a video prepared by the Discovery Channel describing the work of his father at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and of the co-winner in physics Bertram Brockhouse at McMaster University and their “pioneering contributions to the development of neutron scattering techniques for the study of liquid and solid matter”. This was followed by videos and slides made by Mr. Shull and his family while they were in traveling to and visiting in Stockholm.

The Nobel awards are announced in October in order to have sufficient time to make all the arrangements for the ceremony in December. After his death in 1896 Alfred Nobel provided in his will for awards to be made annually to those who had most benefitted humankind in physics, chemistry, medicine-physiology literature, and peace, specifying the areas in that order. A Nobel Memorial Award for economics was introduced in 1969. The events arranged by the Nobel awards committee began a week before the awards ceremony on the flight to Sweden with the other five US Nobel 1994 laureates, George Olah for chemistry, Martin Rodbell and Alfred Gilman for medicine, John Nash and John Harsanyi for economics, and their guests. The other laureates joining them in Stockholm were Kenzaburo Oe for literature and Reinhard Selten for economics.

The events of the next ten days were dazzling and exhausting. The physics and chemistry laureates present lectures at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science two days before the award ceremony. The medicine laureates present lectures at the Karolinska Institute of Medicine and the literature laureates present lectures at the Swedish Academy. The peace laureates are selected by Norway and those awards are presented in Oslo.

The spectacular Nobel awards ceremony and banquet took place on December 10. The next day in the Stockholm City Hall there was another banquet at the end of which each winner gave a 5 minute talk. This was followed by “night cap” parties presented by the student associations and are very informal in the manner of roasts. The next evening the laureates had a private dinner with the King of Sweden. The festivities concluded with a formal St. Lucia day dinner hosted by the students of the University of Stockholm and Oopsala University.

Mr. Shull introduced Mr. Martin Rodbell the 1994 Nobel laureate for medicine who had returned to Washington from Chapel Hill, and they kindly answered a number of questions from the audience.

The President thanked the speaker on behalf of the Society. The President presented the name of one new member. The President then announced the speaker for the next meeting, made the parking announcement, and adjourned the 2039th meeting at 9:54 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,
John S. Garavelli
Recording Secretary

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