Nobelists to Tell of Their Pasts, Achievements

by Alice Boatwright

The son of immigrants born in a small Michigan mining town. A Lithuanian refugee who fought in the Resistance and studied law. A man who bet five dollars the atom bomb wouldn't work.

No obvious signs marked these men as people who would become world-renowned for their intellectual contributions--winners of the Nobel Prize.

But that is just what they became.

And on Sept. 27 at 8 p.m., they will be among six Nobel Prize winners from Berkeley who will gather in 155 Dwinelle to discuss "The Road to Achievement."

The event is the first public gathering of its kind on the campus. The evening is sponsored by UC Berkeley Extension and is free and open to the public.

Glenn Seaborg's family moved to Los Angeles where a high school chemistry class set him on the path to winning the 1951 Nobel Prize for codiscovering plutonium and eight other transuranium elements.

Czeslaw Milosz never practiced law; he began writing instead and published his first book of poems in 1932.

He continued to write throughout years of war, oppression and communism in Eastern Europe and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1980.

Owen Chamberlain saw his own prediction fail when he participated in the first atomic bomb test in 1945. In 1959 he won the Nobel Prize in physics for identifying anti-protons.

Seaborg, Milosz and Chamberlain will be joined by fellow Berkeley Nobelists Charles Townes, co-inventor of the laser, who won the prize in physics in 1964; Gerard Debreu, 1983 winner in economics, who identified the mathematical foundation for reaching supply-demand equilibrium in economics; and the most recent winner, John Harsanyi, who won the prize for economics in 1994 by showing how game theory is an effective tool for making real-world decisions.

The program will be moderated by Carol Christ, the vice chancellor and provost.

The evening will include both informal discussion and time for questions from the audience.

Questions that will be explored include: What makes a Nobel Prize winner? How does winning this most prestigious of all international prizes change a person's perspective on the meaning of life and individual achievement? Does the discoverer of knowledge feel responsible for the way it's used?

At Berkeley the "Nobel tradition" goes back to 1939, when Ernest O. Lawrence became the first professor from a state university ever to win a Nobel Prize.

He received the award in physics. Over the past 55 years Berkeley has had 16 Nobelists on its faculty.

Today eight prize winners hold Berkeley posts.

Seating for the Sept. 27 event will be on a first-come first-served basis.

Overflow seating will be available in 145 Dwinelle, where the program will be simulcast.


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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