Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Nobel Prize Ceremony

Several years ago, when I attended the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, I enjoyed telling the story of Alfred Nobel’s most famous ancestor to everyone who would listen. Who’s the ancestor? It’s Olof Rudbeck. I told how he discovered and explained the lymphatic system as a teenager; how he built the grand anatomical theater for dissections, though soon tired of the business and rarely used it afterwards; how he founded the botanical garden which is now named after his successor Carl Linnaeus; how he collected cannons and fired them at celebrations. And of course how he spent the last thirty years of his life on an adventurous hunt for the lost civilization of Atlantis, which he believed he found in Sweden, all of which I later wrote about in Finding Atlantis.

Here’s a picture I took that evening:

Note the older gentleman standing second from left in the front. It’s John Nash, the economics wizard later featured in Sylvia Nasar’s biography, A Beautiful Mind. We didn’t know a fraction of the story at the time, other than Nash being, among other things, a pioneer in game theory.

So Al Gore, Dorris Lessing and everyone else heading out to Stockholm (or Oslo for the peace prize), give a toast to Alfred Nobel’s illustrious ancestor, Olof Rudbeck, who took time away from his obsessive search for Atlantis in Sweden to marry his daughter Vendela to a young Petrus Nobelius.