Edward Lewis on Receiving the Nobel Prize
  Edward Lewis     Biography    
Recorded: 04 Jun 2001

We were on a mountain in Switzerland. We didn’t hear about it. We were in a train on its way to Monte Verita, Switzerland. I got out of the taxicab; my wife and I went up to this meeting place up on the hill, above the lake, a beautiful place there. And the woman in charge of the meeting, which we knew very well, Erica Markfert, rushed up to me and – she always rushes up to me – and she whispered to me you’ve won the prize.

I was wondering if it would happen that day because everyone knows the day. The reason that happened, it’s sort of a funny thing. [For years] people said, “You are going to win the prize.” People from public relations asked, “Oh, are you going to be here tomorrow?” That kind of stuff. So finally five years later, they forget all about it. I had won all the prizes that were there and the prediction is, if you win this [certain] prize, you were likely to win [the Nobel subsequently], and there were five of them. I was glad it was over to tell you the truth because it’s sort of annoying. And you don’t always work to win the Prize, because I know people that have done work that will never win it and will never get it because they are passed by. It’s [a] nice prize but there is a penalty for it. [I had] to meet everybody and I went to a banquet every week and met the trustees out in their meetings. The first year I did nothing but do that! It disrupts your life, especially when you don’t have a secretary. I had a halftime secretary. You need a full time secretary. I had a halftime person but she wasn’t really a secretary, she was running an art gallery. She was very nice, but I had to teach her to do some of the things.

I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time and right now they are trying to arrange a symposium for the celebration for the 100th year. So we had a big celebration in September and we’ve had couple meetings. Every week or so people have figured somehow to honor someone for this or that.

Edward B. Lewis (1918-2004) was a renowned leader in genetics and Drosophila development research. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1942. He served as captain of the United States Army Air Force from 1942-1945 as a meteorologist and an oceanographer in the Pacific Theatre. In 1946, he joined the Caltech faculty and was appointed Professor of Biology in 1956, earning a Thomas Hunt Morgan Professorship in 1966. In 1995, Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development” along with Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus. Lewis is also a recipient of the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal (1983), the Gairdner Foundation International award (1987), the Wolf Foundation prize in medicine (1989), the Rosenstiel award (1990) and the National Medal of Science (1990).