Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Divinipotent About Nobel Prizes

On this day in 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was 35 at the time, which made him the youngest person ever to receive it. His acceptance speech includes these words:
"I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality."
Several days ago, President Barack Obama awoke to the surprising news that he, too, was a Peace Prize winner. Divinipotent Daily leaves it to others to debate who deserves what, when and why;  instead, today's post is devoted to some thoughts of other prize winners, prize haters and prize coveters.

"Nobel prize money is a life-belt thrown to a swimmer who has already reached the shore in safety."
~ George Bernard Shaw, Literature 1925

George Bernard Shaw disliked awards and was particularly antagonistic toward the Nobel Prize.  As he said, “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for having invented dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.” Still, when he was awarded the prize for literature in 1925, he accepted it; apparently, his wife convinced him to consider it a tribute to Ireland. Shaw did reject the money, however, and according to Wikipedia, requested that it be "used to finance translation of Swedish books to English."

“If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize.”

~ Richard Feynman, Physics 1965

Throughout his life, the brilliant physicist Richard Feynman  encouraged scientists, starting with himself, to remember how little they know. As he put it, “I was born not knowing and have only had a little time to change that here and there.”

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."
~ Winston Churchill, Literature 1953

Winston Churchill is best remembered as the inspiring, uncompromising Prime Minister of the England during World War II. But it was his skill at historical biography, not wartime leadership, that led to his Nobel Prize. He also had a way with one-liners like this one: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

"Many people would rather die than think. In fact they do."
~ Bertrand Russell, Literature 1950

Philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, anti-war activist, anti-imperialist and all-around pain in the neck of power Bertrand Russell believed that logic, not idealism, would save the world from itself. As he said, "All movements go too far." He received his Nobel "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."

“I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize”
~ Steven Wright

Steven Wright remains at large.

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