And the winner is…


This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome. The reaction of an inorganic chemist (me), a physical chemist (Gavin), an organic chemist (Laura) and a supramolecular chemist (Stuart) was along the lines of ‘biology again’. The Twitter-sphere seems to agree:

@sciencebase: Couldn’t they create a separate #biology Prize? So disappointing when real chemists miss out. #nobel09 #chemistry

@LeighJKBoerner Sigh. Another yr, another chem Nobel awarded for biology. In last 10 yrs, only 1/2 of the prizes have gone to chemistry.#nobel09 #chemistry

@LeighJKBoerner I’m not saying that the ribosome discoveries weren’t worthy of a Nobel. I just wish there were a biology category. #nobel09 #chemistry

@simon_frantz For anyone debating whether today’s Prize is biol. or chem., see Roger Kornberg’s answer in 2006 (~50 sec in) #nobel09

@simon_frantz Another Chemistry Prize fact as told to me an hour or so ago. Ada Yonath is the first female Chemistry Laureate for 45 years #nobel09

@michaelgrr ribosome can assemble itself and do its job all in a test tube, no cell required. thus it is definitely #chemistry .#nobel09

@xiquitabacana biology at the moment is the most exciting science? #nobel09 #biology

@Hugenay23 Is biology science? };? RT @xiquitabacana: biology at the moment is the most exciting science? #nobel09 #biology

@mgberlin Nobel prize in chemistry goes to biology. Not very encouraging to an aspiring inorganic chemist. #nobel09 #chemistry

@rpg7twit Chemistry don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that zing! #nobel09

This isn’t to suggest that the discovery wasn’t prize-worthy (far from it – having done a bit of powder diffraction I can just about begin to imagine exactly how hard protein crystallography is). I guess we’d just like to see it go to some of the areas of chemistry that we know and love. Maybe even to people who, if affiliated to a university, would be in the chemistry department…

On the positive side, it goes to show just how broad – and impressive – chemistry can be. Read Stu’s take on it in our research highlight.


Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)