Ralph Steinman: Professor awarded Nobel Prize after his death
Three scientists were awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology. However, one of them died just days before he could learn of the honor.
Rockefeller University professor Ralph Steinman died of pancreatic cancer right before it was announced that he would share the $1.5 million annual prize with American Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffman from France.
Typically, the Nobel Committee does not award prizes posthumously unless the death occurred after the announcement. When the committee announced the prize, it was unaware that Steinman had died on September 30.
“The events that have occurred are unique and, to the best of our knowledge, are unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Prize,” the foundation said in a statement.
“According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, work produced by a person since deceased shall not be given an award. However, the statutes specify that if a person has been awarded a prize and has died before receiving it, the prize may be presented.”
Officials said the money would be transferred to his estate.
“The Rockefeller University is delighted that the Nobel Foundation has recognized Ralph Steinman for his seminal discoveries concerning the body’s immune responses,” said Rockefeller University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D. in a statement. “But the news is bittersweet, as we also learned this morning from Ralph’s family that he passed a few days ago after a long battle with cancer. Our thoughts are with Ralph’s wife, children and family.”
Canadian-born Steinman was said to have used his own prize-winning research into the body’s immune system with a new therapy that extended his life.