A posthumous Nobel Prize for Medicine?

One of the scientists who was announced as a Nobel laureate today for his work on the immune system and fighting cancer actually died (aged 68) of the disease himself last Friday before he could be told of the award. Apparently, his own discoveries had been used in the extension of his life.

Of course, now the Nobel committee has something of a quandary, they did not apparently know of the death of Canadian-born Ralph Steinman at the time they made the award, but the Nobel statutes say that awards cannot be made posthumously as they are intended to help the laureates expand on their science.

Famously, Rosalind Franklin who some would suggest deserves far more recognition than she achieved for her X-ray crystal structure work on DNA, had died of ovarian cancer in 1958 years before the Nobel committee gave the 1962 award to Francis Crick, James Watson and Franklin’s boss at King’s College London, Maurice Wilkins. There were other X-ray structures of DNA before Franklin’s but it was hers that gave Watson and Crick the necessary clues to unravel the double helix and to proclaim they had found the secret of life, in the Eagle pub, Cambridge.