Six Americans Win 2017 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine and Physics

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Stockholm, Sweden (4E) – Six Americans have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and Physics for 2017, which were announced one day apart by The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden that confers the world’s most prestigious prize for intellectual excellence.

The Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine and Physics are the first of five Nobel Prizes to be awarded this year.

Americans Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Oct. 2 for their research into what controls” circadian rhythms,” or the internal clock that governs how humans, animals and plants behave day and night.

The circadian clock anticipates and adapts our physiology to the different phases of the day. Our biological clock helps to regulate sleep patterns, feeding behavior, hormone release, blood pressure, and body temperature. A large proportion of our genes are regulated by the circadian clock.

Hall, Rosbash and Young pinpointed the location of the period and timeless genes within the fruit fly genome and working out what their proteins do.

Chronobiology (the study of biological clocks) is an expanding field of research due to the pioneering work of the three Laureates, who explained the role of specific genes in keeping animal bodies in step with light and darkness.

“This ability to prepare for the regular daily fluctuations is crucial for all life forms,” said Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Karolinska Institute Nobel Committee.

“This year’s Nobel prize laureates have been studying this fundamental problem and solved the mystery of how an inner clock in our bodies can anticipate daily fluctuations between night and day to optimize our behavior and physiology.”

Hall was born 1945 in New York. He received his doctoral degree in 1971 at the University of Washington in Seattle and was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from 1971 to 1973.

He joined the faculty at Brandeis University in Waltham in 1974. In 2002, he became associated with University of Maine where he is currently a geneticist.

Rosbash was born in 1944 in Kansas City. He received his doctoral degree in 1970 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

During the following three years, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Since 1974, he has been on faculty at Brandeis University in Waltham, USA.

Young was born in 1949 in Miami and received his doctoral degree at the University of Texas in Austin in 1975. Between 1975 and 1977, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in Palo Alto. From 1978, he has been on faculty at the Rockefeller University in New York.

On Oct. 3, another American trio — Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish — was conferred the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics for the detection of gravitational waves.

The Laureates are members of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the European Virgo observatories responsible for the breakthrough detection of gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves spread at the speed of light and fill the Universe, according to Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity.

Einstein, however, was convinced it would never be possible to measure gravitational waves. The LIGO project’s achievement used a pair of gigantic laser interferometers to measure a change thousands of times smaller than an atomic nucleus, as the gravitational wave passed the Earth.

The LIGO and Virgo laboratories were built to detect the very subtle signal produced by gravitational waves. The three new Laureates led the development of a laser-based system that could reach the sensitivity required detect infinitesimal gravitational waves.

The result was LIGO, a pair of widely separated facilities in North America: one observatory is in Washington State while the other is in Livingston, Louisiana. The European side of the gravitational wave collaboration is based in Pisa, Italy.

Weiss was born 1932 in Berlin, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in 1962 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a Professor of Physics at MIT.

Barish, born 1936 in Omaha, Nebraska, received his Ph.D. in 1962 from University of California, Berkeley. He is a Linde Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in California.Born 1940 in Logan, Utah, Thorne received his Ph.D. in 1965 from Princeton University in New Jersey. He is a Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech.

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