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Answer Man: In Nobel prizes, one win for Mayo

December 4, 2018

Dear Answer Man: I have heard a rumor that you might be a candidate for a Nobel Prize for having all of the answers. I did Google this question without success but then thought better than googling. I could just ask the Answer Man. My question is, “How many doctors and researchers employed at Mayo over the years have won Nobel Prizes?” — Tony Knauer

Dear Tony: I’m still waiting for the Nobel Foundation to make a category for Ingenuity, Acumen, or Knowing It All, as I’d clearly be the best candidate. But I have something better for now– an answer for every question that comes across my desk.

It’s tough to get a Nobel Prize, which is probably why even a world-renowned medical institution such as Mayo has only one win on the books.

Drs. Edward Kendall and Philip Hench (two Mayo doctors) were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1950, along with Tadeus Reichstein, a Polish-Swiss chemist. Their work on adrenal cortex hormones led to the isolation of cortisone, a stress hormone we use to give short-term pain relief and reduce swelling, deliberately suppress immune response, or sometimes treat skin conditions.

There are no other Nobel Prize laureates at Mayo, but Matthew Dacy, the director of Heritage Hall, did offer up a few intriguing connections to the Prize.

Frank Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929 for the Kellogg-Briand Pact (it argued for the peaceful settlement of international disputes, instead of war). Kellogg spent his early legal career in Rochester and was mentored by W.W. Mayo. In fact, Kellogg Middle School was named for him.

Additionally, Luis Alvarez, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968 (he designed a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber) was the son of Mayo Clinic doctor Walter Alvarez.

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