Press Release 04/25/01 :: Smithsonian Lemelson Center
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Amy Kehs(703) 920-5918
Melinda Machado(202) 357-3129

Smithsonian Exhibit Celebrates 100 Years of the Nobel Prize

The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center, located in the National Museum of American History, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the prestigious Nobel Prize in the new exhibition "Nobel Voices: Celebrating 100 Years of the Nobel Prize" opening on Thursday, April 26. The exhibit will close on Oct. 31.

The Nobel Prize has become an ongoing tradition that records and celebrates achievements that change the way we live. In his will, Alfred Nobel provided for prizes to be awarded "to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." 2001 marks the anniversary of the prizes, first awarded in 1901.

The Lemelson Center received generous support for "Nobel Voices" from the Lemelson Foundation. The exhibit was developed in collaboration with the Deutsches Museum Bonn in Germany and the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, with the cooperation of the Meetings of Nobel Prize Winners in Lindau, Germany, annually convened by Countess Sonja Bernadotte of Wisborg, Sweden. "Nobel Voices" explores the motivation and vision of Nobel laureates and the history of Alfred Nobel and his prize. It features personal video interviews of laureates, candid photographic portraits and original artifacts, including Albert Einstein's pipe and William Faulkner's tweed jacket and typewriter.

"'Nobel Voices' is a salute to the spirit of innovative thought and action recognized yearly by the Nobel Prizes," said Lemelson Center director Art Molella. "This exhibit presents, in their own words, the stories of Nobel laureates who have devoted their lives to the service of knowledge and mankind. It showcases the human side of the creative process and examines the motivation behind these extraordinary individuals."

Visitors to the exhibition will pass through eight sections telling the story of the Nobel Prize and those who have achieved it.

  • The Nobel Prizes--In this section, visitors can examine an actual Nobel Prize medal and see artifacts relating to Nobel laureates from each of the six fields, including: Albert Einstein's (Physics 1921) pipe, Linus Pauling's (Chemistry 1954 and Peace 1962) models of protein structures, Barbara McClintock's (Medicine 1983) microscope, William Faulkner's (Literature 1949) typewriter, items from Martin Luther King Jr.'s (Peace 1964) 1963 civil rights march in Washington and Milton Friedman's (Economic Sciences 1976) briefcase.
  • Nobel Encounters--A series of original video interviews with Nobel laureates is featured in this section. Most of the interviews were conducted in June 2000 at a 50th-anniversary gathering of laureates in Lindau, Germany. Since 1951, laureates have met there and exchanged ideas with students. The interviews focus on such topics as the source of their youthful inspirations, what it is like to be thrust into the public eye when they win the Nobel Prize and their personal reflections on the mysteries of creativity and invention.
  • Inventing the Future--Visitors to this section learn how the work of Nobel Prize winners affects our everyday lives. Using examples from each of the six fields, it shows how scientists' discoveries and the creative work of authors and humanitarians provide the foundation for new inventions and innovations.
  • Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Prize--Alfred Nobel was an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. The prize categories--physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace--grew out of his personal interests. The prize for economic sciences was added in 1968 in memory of Alfred Nobel. In this section, visitors get a glimpse of the man behind the prize and how the Nobel Prize became the international legacy it is today.
  • The World of the Laureates--An interactive world map shows birthplaces of laureates and the locations of the institutions where laureates worked at the time of the awards, as officially recorded by the Nobel Foundation.
  • Through Young Artists' Eyes--One of the most significant influences a prizewinner can have is inspiring future generations of Nobel laureates. In this section, artistic impressions of Nobel laureates by students in the Duke Ellington Youth Project show the creative impact the Nobel Prize can have on young people.
  • The Nobel Laureates in Lindau--More than 65 portraits of Nobel laureates taken by photographer Peter Badge are on display in this section. Most of the portraits were taken at the annual conference of Nobel laureates in Lindau, Germany. Since 1951, Nobel laureates and young people from around the world have gathered for a week of intellectual discussions to complete Nobel's vision of international harmony through knowledge.
  • Images of Nobel Prize Winners from the National Portrait Gallery--The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery collects likenesses of Nobel Prize winners from around the world. On display in this section are 19 portraits including those of Albert Einstein, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel and President Theodore Roosevelt.

After completing their visit to "Nobel Voices," visitors can go on a "treasure hunt" for other Nobel artifacts in the National Museum of American History, such as Jack Kilby's (Physics 2000) integrated circuit--the microchip--and the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter that played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King (Peace 1964). A website located at features a virtual exhibit and program information.



The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging inventive creativity in young people. The Center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country's most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. The nearest Metro stations are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian on the Orange/Blue lines. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except on Dec. 25. Admission is free.
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