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despite the skepticism of a scientific community that at first ignored
their ideas, three UCLA Nobel laureates have gone on to achievements
that deepen our understanding of human existence and perhaps even
open the gateway to longer life
by Warren Olney
very center of worldwide celebrity culture, Southern California
is often dismissed as a place devoted more to image than substance.
But, for all the attention we give to the stars of athletic arenas
and movie screens, there is another galaxy in the local firmament,
composed of people who really are changing the universe as we know
it in fundamental ways.
of these are UCLA scientists who have received the Nobel Prize,
two of them on the chemistry faculty in the College of Letters and
Science and one in the School of Medicine. These are not people
with press agents, retinues or the other trappings that often go
with global acclaim. But neither are they the protected denizens
of dark laboratories, who shrink from outside exposure. All, in
fact, are elegant and worldly gentlemen, gracious and open, willing
to suffer an interviewer gladly, despite the immense gulf of knowledge,
understanding and discipline that separates them.
scientific achievements that earned them the world's most prestigious
award are as different from one another as their fields of study:
chemistry, organic chemistry and medicine. But, their individua
stories reveal interesting and important similarities.
prizes were rewarded for new insights that have deepened human understanding
of how life works and increased the prospects for individual health,
not to mention survival of the species. All three researchers persevered
in their work despite the skepticism of established scientific communities,
which at first ignored, or even denigrated, their ideas.
they were at different stages of their careers when they achieved
laureate status, all three have been profoundly affected. They all
discuss their work and its impact with a combination of intense
pride and personal modesty. And, if there's anything for the lay
person to learn directly from their success, it may be that all
three-regardless of age-are practitioners, as well as advocates,
of vigorous physical exercise.