By Rizwana Rahim
Winning a Nobel prize
is a life-long dream, often unrerialized, even for
the best in the field. But stealing one –
I mean the gold medallion that comes with the honor
and the award – is just an overnight job.
The only consolation: such losses have been rarer
than the number of winners of this much-coveted
prize. To date, there are only three such known
cases -- two successfully resolved, one still missing.
In March 2007, employees at the Lawrence Hall of
Science at the University of California at Berkeley
discovered a Nobel gold medallion missing overnight
from a locked glass cabinet.
That hurt! First, it was the one awarded in 1939
to Ernest Lawrence (a well-known physicist in whose
honor the building was named) for inventing cyclotron,
a particle accelerator. In prestige, this loss was
obviously immeasurable, but in cash now, it seems,
it was worth about $ 4,200. Berkeley offered $2,500
for its return. Second, it was the first Nobel for
a Berkeley scientist. “We’ve not had
a theft of an artifact in 39 years,” rued
Susan Gregory, Deputy Director of the museum.
Fortunately, shortly thereafter, this medallion
was recovered, thanks to an anonymous tip. It turned
out to be the work of a 22-year old Biology major,
Ian Michael Sanchez, who also worked there. He told
the police that he took it one evening on “a
whim.” UC Berkeley couldn’t be happier,
but Susan Gregory says that the medallion will be
put away till next year when they celebrate the
40th anniversary of the museum. What will be displayed
in the meantime will be a replica, loaned by a member
of Lawrence ’s team who along with other team
members had received it from Lawrence himself.
Another stolen Nobel medallion was the 1985 Nobel
Prize for Peace that Kay Miller shared with her
colleagues at International Physicians for the Prevention
of Nuclear War. That gold medallion was found in
January this year in Salt Lake City, UT, a chance
find under some of the most unusual circumstances.
The police were searching the car of someone in
custody for some unrelated charges, and found, among
dozens of illegal driver’s licenses and a
gun and other things, the gold medallion that was
awarded to Miller et al. The only connection
discovered in the process was that the man once
lived in Miller’s basement.
The third Nobel has a South Asian connection. It
was awarded to the first non-Westerner then, Rabindranath
Tagore, for Literature, in 1913. In 2004, it was
found missing from a museum in Shantiniketan. It
is still missing.
This information is derived from an article by Stephen
Ornes in ‘Discover’ magazine, June,