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University of Chicago

20 Canadian Nobel Laureates

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University of Chicago

The Nobel Prizes were established in 1895 using a bequest from the Swedish inventor, Alfred Nobel. The prizes are awarded annually in several areas, including Economics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine. Although many of Canada's Nobel Prize laureates spent the bulk of their career elsewhere, we've compiled a list of people with a strong connection to Canada who were awarded Nobel Prizes in various disciplines.

1. Ernest Rutherford

Rutherford (above), an early nuclear physicist, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908 for his work on radioactivity. Rutherford was born in New Zealand and died in England, but performed his prize-winning research at McGill University in Montreal.

2. Sir Frederick Banting

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Banting, a doctor from Ontario, was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923 for discovering insulin.

3. William Francis Giauque

Courtesy of the University of California — Berkeley

Giauque won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1949 for his research into the properties of matter at very cold temperatures. Although he was born in Ontario, his parents were American and he spent most of his career at U.C. Berkeley.

4. Lester Pearson

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Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his work that contributed to the resolution of the Suez Canal Crisis. He later became the Prime Minister of Canada.

5. Charles Huggins

Huggins was an oncologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1966 for his research on the use of hormones to control cancer. He was born in Canada, but spent his career at the University of Chicago.

6. Gerhard Herzberg

Herzberg won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1971 for his work on free radicals. He was born in Germany, but immigrated to Canada as a young man and lived there for several decades.

7. Saul Bellow

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Bellow won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976. He was born in Quebec of Russian parents, but moved to the United States as a child. During the Great Depression, Bellow was employed by the Federal Writers Project, part of the New Deal strategy of giving jobs to unemployed Americans.

8. David Hubel

Hubel, a neurobiologist, was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1981 for his work on the visual cortex. He grew up and studied in Canada, but spent his career at Harvard University.

9. Henry Taube

Taube was also born in Canada but spent his career at American universities, including Cornell, the University of Chicago, and Stanford. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1983 for his work in inorganic chemistry.

10. John Polanyi

Polanyi won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in the field of chemical kinetics. According to Wikipedia, Polanyi has been awarded a whopping 25 honorary degrees during his career.

11. Sidney Altman

Altman is from Montreal but has been teaching at Yale since 1971. He and one of his colleagues won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989 for their work on the RNA molecule.

12. Richard Taylor

Taylor is from the excellently-named town of Medicine Hat in Alberta. He and two colleagues won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990 for their work in particle physics.

13. Rudolph Marcus

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Marcus won the 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on electron transfer. He's from Montreal originally but has spent most of his career in the United States. A conference celebrating his 90th birthday will be held in Singapore in July.

14. Michael Smith

Smith was a British-born chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993 for his work on site-directed mutagenesis, which has to do with genetic modification. He spent most of his career in British Columbia.

15. Bertram Brockhouse

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Brockhouse and an American colleague won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1994 for their work in developing neutron scattering techniques. He taught at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, for more than 20 years.

16. William Vickrey

Vickrey, an economics professor at Columbia University who was born in Victoria, BC, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1996 along with James Mirrlees. Vickrey died three days after the prize was announced.

17. Myron Scholes

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Financial economist Myron Scholes was born in Ontario but is now a professor emeritus at Stanford. He and his colleague, Robert Merton, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1997 for developing a technique used to calculate the value of derivatives.

18. Robert Mundell

Mundell was also born in Ontario, and also won the Nobel Prize in Economics. He received the award in 1999 for his work on optimum currency areas, an economic theory that models the ideal geographic reach of a specific currency. Mundell's work helped pave the way for the creation of the euro.

19. Willard Boyle

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Boyle of Nova Scotia won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009, along with George E. Smith, for inventing a device that is integral to digital imaging. Boyle was homeschooled until the age of 14.

20. Ralph Steinman

Steinman was born in Montreal but died in Manhattan. He was an immunologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2011 for discovering the dendritic cell, which is an important part of the immune system. Steinman died of pancreatic cancer three days before the prize was announced.

Sources: Wikipedia.org and Nobelprize.org

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Pop Culture
5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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