Marriage a plus for Nobel aspirants

Scientists May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, pictured at the University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway
Scientists May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, pictured at the University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway

Norwegian scientists May-Britt and Edvard Moser, co-winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine Monday, join a century-old tradition of couples whose marriages may have propelled them towards the coveted prize.

"We have the same vision, we love to understand and we do that by talking to each other, talking to other people and then try to address the questions we are interested in," May-Britt Moser told the Nobel Foundation Monday when asked about the role of marriage in her research.

"And to be able to discuss this when you get an idea on the spot—instead of (having to) plan a meeting in one or two or three weeks, that makes a huge difference," she added.

The Mosers were the fifth couple to win a Nobel since the prize began in 1901, and the fourth to win one together.

French scientist Marie Curie and her husband Pierre were the first in 1903 when they won the physics prize, followed three decades later by their daughter Irene Joliot-Curie, who was the 1935 chemistry prize co-laureate with her husband Frederic Joliot.

The US-Czech couple Gerty and Carl Cori were joint winners of the medicine prize in 1947. Gerty Cori was also the first female medicine prize winner.

Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal was a co-winner of the prize for economics in 1974, and eight years later his wife Alva Myrdal, a sociologist, was among the recipients of the peace prize.

Gustav Kaellstrand, senior curator at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, told AFP that laureates tend to be good at "surrounding themselves with other smart and open people" and that he expected to see more couples in the future.

"Married couples are often a good team, they can bounce ideas back and forth inside and outside the laboratory," he said.

"And that's good because the best ideas don't necessarily come when you're sitting in the lab."

Nobel-winning couples do not only spur each other on, he added, some also have a knack for creating Nobel winning kids—six winners were the children of laureates.

"Laureates know how to find a creative setting that fosters (research). And their children, who grow up in that creative setting... have natural access to the research world."


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© 2014 AFP

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Oct 08, 2014
Marie did marry a Frenchmen however, She was born Maria Salomea Skłodowska in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw's clandestine Floating University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her older sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. She shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie and with physicist Henri Becquerel. She won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Her achievements included a theory of radioactivity (a term that she coined, techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements, polonium and radium. Under her direction, the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms, using radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today. DuringW

Oct 08, 2014
I agree with the previous Comment. Therefore: Please amend your article to read as something like
"Polish scientist, and naturalised French citizen, Marie Curie and her French husband Pierre were the first in 1903 when they won the physics prize,..."

I note with interest that you identified another couple (separately) as Czech and American. So, you really do need to treat the Polish and French couple in the same way.

The only reason that Marie Sklodowska went to study in Paris was that the oppressive Russian government in control of Poland at the time did not allow women to gain advanced degrees at Polish universities.

Oct 10, 2014
Hear, hear. An obvious point made in the comments about the nationality of Maria Sklodowska-Curie. She always considered herself Polish and there was never the slightest doubt there. Please correct.

Oct 11, 2014
Maria Sklodowska-Curie was of course a Polish scientist living in France in times when Poland was under Russian occupation.

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