And the Nobel Prize winner goes to … Barack Obama

October 8, 2008

NEW YORK – Martin Chalfie, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry announced on Wednesday, said one of the first things he wanted to do was join a group of Nobel winners who last month nobel.jpgendorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president.

“We really need to have more support for science in the White House, and we haven’t had that in the last eight years,” Chalfie said in an interview at his home in New York. He is a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University.

Chalfie said he called an old friend, Robert Horvitz, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2002, in order to join with the Nobel laureates in the sciences who have published an open letter in support of Obama. Horvitz was one of the 61 Nobel winners who signed the letter, dated Sept. 25.

“I said, ‘Bob, the one thing I really want to do is, I understand there’s a list of Nobel Prize winners supporting Barack Obama, and I want to get my name on the list,’” Chalfie said.

In the letter, the Nobel winners in medicine, physics and chemistry wrote: “The country urgently needs a visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness.

“We are convinced that Senator Barack Obama is such a leader,” they wrote.

“During the administration of George W. Bush, vital parts of our country’s scientific enterprise have been damaged by stagnant or declining federal support. The government’s scientific advisory process has been distorted by political considerations. As a result, our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk. We have lost time critical for the development of new
ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve our economy.

“We have watched Senator Obama’s approach to these issues with admiration. We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation’s competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation’s and the world’s most urgent needs.

“Senator Obama understands that Presidential leadership and federal investments in science and technology are crucial elements in successful governance of the world’s leading country,” they wrote.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Chip East (Martin Chalfie explains his work to journalists while his dog Bernie does tricks in his apartment)

19 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I’m comforted by the fact that the brightest among us are supporting Barack Obama. (I’ve never won a Nobel Prize, and never will, but have met several Nobel Prize winners and found them obviously interesting and quite pleasant.)

I’m not comforted by the recent historical record of the intelligence (or simple good sense) of American voters. Richard Nixon was elected twice after the Checkers speech and once after Watergate (or did only those of us in the DC area realize the truth?). At least Daddy Bush was only elected once, but W was “elected” twice–both times with questionable vote-counting. Amazingly, there was effectively no organized action to do anything about vote fraud, in either election.

Now we’ve got McCain & Palin. They are a lot more frightening than W & Cheney. Yes, McCain was a true hero in a war that should never have happened. That was many years ago, and has nothing to do with McCain’s ability to govern the United States. Sarah Palin’s competence would be amusing if it weren’t so scarey.

Posted by ciara | Report as abusive

God bless geniuses. It would be very interesting to know the average IQ of McCain supporters and Obama supporters. I’d be willing to bet the spread would favor Obama more than the 11 points he is favored today in the Gallup Poll.

Posted by david dial | Report as abusive

Mr. Dial I would agree with you completely.
It’s funny when the majority of McCain supporters I have spoken to come off as slow, un-intellectual, and racist.

Obviously not all of his supporters give me those feelings, but the vast majority of them do. It’s like a party of religious whack jobs, rich elites, and redneck racists.

That’s why we get the “Obama’s a muslim” and “Obama’s a terrorist” comments. These folks are too ignorant to do their own research and form their own opinions.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

This man has a quality that i do not remember seeing for quite sometime in any of our leaders. This is good for us when some of the smartest people on the planet. say yes we can. Is it just me am i not whatching or hearing things right? Please let me know somebody please tell me when the last time YOU felt as though good things are about to happen in this the greatest nation on earth.

That elitist Obama, how dare he be endorsed by the greatest minds humanity has produced!

Posted by clone12 | Report as abusive

I guess it depends on your perspective. What do scientists know outside the world of science anyway?
More grant monies to subsidize their “work”? Subsidies come in all shapes and forms.
Who ever discovered anything in science at the government level anyway? The private sector has targeted more research and development monies for disease and illness by far which we can access anytime. I guess that is why many foreigners come here for health care.

The economic times of this country have never been better for anyone who is hard-working and not looking for a handout. The decreased budgets need to continue and better yet frozen. MCCAIN/PALIN

Posted by marie | Report as abusive

Foreigners come for health care to places like Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and other nonprofits. Companies do a lot of development and clinical trials (that’s where most of the money goes) but very little basic research. Vast majority of basic research is funded by the government.

Posted by LB | Report as abusive

marie’s comment is typical of Palin-type cheerleader dimwits who hold deeply felt opinions that are ungrounded in either thought or reality. Clearly, she is smugly unaware of how much basic research in science and technology is funded, to the tune of many billions of dollars, by the government — much of which eventually gets turned over for free to corporations who then turn around and gouge the public for the resulting pharmaceuticals, devices, data, and services. Oh, yeah, and they tout their subsidized economic success as proof of the genius of free enterprise! This is one of the chief reasons for escalating healthcare costs that have reduced access and general health status for the American public, despite marie’s naive, ill-informed fantasy that the US is Number One in healthcare. Her incomprehensible statement, written in the midst of the current financial disaster bailout, “The economic times of this country have never been better for anyone who is hard-working and not looking for a handout” is stunningly symptomatic of the moronic, delusional ideology of unfettered renegade capitalism that has brought the country to its knees. Scientists certainly don’t know everything; but they don’t make a public virtue out of stupidity, as marie and her White House cohorts have done for the past 8 years. McCain/Palin is a symptom of self-congratulatory mental disease.

Posted by Fred Hosea | Report as abusive

Marie, if I asked you yesterday whether studying glowing jellyfish was important for human health, I doubt you would have said yes. And yet, today, 3 people won the Nobel prize for work that started on jellyfish. The discovery and dissemination of green fluorescent protein has been an amazing advance whose importance is hard to overstate. It is right up there with discovering the structure of DNA. It IS that important and it was NOT done by scientists in the private sector. You are speaking from a place of ignorance and I hope you will educate yourself on the many advances scientists at public universities and institutions have achieved to make your life better.

Posted by Josh | Report as abusive

I congratulate Fred and Josh on refuting Marie’s ignorance — however, it is unfortunate that the words will probably fall on deaf ears as people who echo Marie’s sentiments are usually too brain dead and ignorant to comprehend such large, complex word arrangements. You must put it in simplier terms that she can understand: Voting for McCain/Palin = voting for stagnation (that means no improvement, Marie). Voting for Obama/Biden = voting a possibility for change. Or maybe, if Marie cannot understand that: McCain = the last 4 years, Obama = the promise of some progress.

Posted by Lynna | Report as abusive

i believe in this tough times we need king soloman someone intelligent and wise to lead this country in the right direction and give the people and generations to come hope for a positive future.Obama/Biden the only choice

Posted by woodrow inniss | Report as abusive

Nobel prize winners are some of the best and brightest in the world. However, this doesn’t guarantee that they base their vote on an altruistic insight into what’s best for the world. They are still voting for what they think is best for them. Just as most humans will do come November. What if there was a stat that 90% of ex-convicts support Obama. Would that be a reason to not vote for him. Of course not, you have to look at each issue for yourself and decide. Is it because he will bring about light punishments, or because he has a great plan for rehabilitating inmates. One would be bad for me the other good. I’m not voting for Obama, and it isn’t because of the reasons that have been listed in the previous posts, at least I don’t consider myself delusional. The reason is the large divide between Sen. Obama’s past actions, and his current spoken platform. He sounds like he has a great plan but it doesn’t agree with his past record. When I look at is voting record I disagree with him on most issues. Can someone offer their thoughts on why there is such a divide between his record and current platform?

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

Nobel prize winners need to stick to their work. Or maybe a little research into Obama’s background could enlighten their brains a little further. Polls are in no way an indication of either candidate. They have historically backed the Democratic candidate, who at most times never wins anyway.
Wake up Obama backers. Borrow some brains from somewhere. Get a life.

Joyce,
someone does need to borrow some brains. The 5 states with the highest % of
college graduates are all blue or leaning blue, and the 5 lowest are red
or leaning red. Same is true of average income states, 5 highest average income
states are blue or leaning, and 5 lowest are red or leaning.

Posted by tabo01 | Report as abusive

The Nobel Prize Internet Archive Contains up-to-date information of A complete list of winners of the Nobel Prize laureates in literature.
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=70 984368251

One thing that should be mentioned, things said by the Obama administration have leaned toward more towards a science focus.

Ideas put out there have been federal land being used for solar power plants, high speed rail between cities, and even utilitarian measures such as health care. Even if the policies don’t succeed, the ideas have been distributed to a larger audience. The right stuff is being glorified.

Congratulations to Barack Obama…He does deserve it. I sadly read some of the negative comments from the sore loser party. I used to be either republican or independent. Since I’ve seen, heard and read the sour grapes and ignorant comments from the McCain/Palin camp and from radical righteous democrats, I’m sad that Americans could be so ignorant, closed minded, prejudice, vindictive and mean spirited. I have a few more words for that…but enough said. Barack Obama received his award for his Peace promoting efforts, anyway…not for his support of just one group. You go Barack!!!

Posted by Clarice | Report as abusive

The fix was in!

Nobel Prize for Physics… “Great”, Chemistry… “Love It”, Medicine…”Wonderful”, Literature…”Fantastic”, Peace… “What a Joke”!!!! Let me get this straight, Obama becomes President on January 20th and by February 1st (end of nomination period), Obama is in. What did he do between January 20th and February 1st to be considered for the nomination? The Fix was clearly in. Good for Mr. Obama he is in good company with losers like Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Kofi Annan, and Yasser Arafat. He (Obama) fits right in!

Posted by Walter O'Connell | Report as abusive

Mr. President of the United States of America, Mr. President Obama:
Congratulations on obtaining the most prestigous award of peace, the Nobel Prize.
I am a naturalized United States citizen. While I was in Europe, I had a chance to hear your speech which you delivered in Germany. I was moved by your words and your vision of peace of all nations. At that time my heart was moved, and I knew you would at some point receive such a honorable award. Mr. President, Congratulations!

Posted by Helena | Report as abusive