Svante Paabo: The Evolution Of A Normal Human Being
On any other day, Svante Pääbo would have been in his laboratory in the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. However, since the 3rd of October is a holiday to celebrate West Germany’s reconciliation with East Germany, the man who’d dedicated his life to reconciling humankind’s genes with our hominid ancestors was at home. As a result when he got ‘the call’ from a Swedish number he thought “it had something to do with our little summer house in Sweden… the lawn mower’s broken down or something”
The call of course was to inform Svante that he had won the 2022 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
Svante isn’t the first from his Swedish home to have been awarded a Nobel. His father Sube Bergstrom is a Nobel laureate as well. Yet it’s his mother that Svante accredits more of his success to. “I think the biggest influence in my life was for sure my mother, with whom I grew up. And in some sense it makes me a bit sad that she can’t experience this day.” But there was a valuable lesson that he did learn from his father “’Such people’ by which he probably means, the obsessive truth seeking breed of scientists “are normal human beings.”
That definition of normal of course is one that Svante has managed to push in his own lifetime.
- In 1992, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a German research foundation, which is the highest honour awarded in German research.
- It only gets better from here, as he went on to be elected as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2000.
- In 2005 Svante received the prestigious Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine.
- 3 years later in 2008, Pääbo was added to the members of the Order Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts. In the same year he received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
- In October 2009, the Foundation For the Future announced that Pääbo had been awarded the 2009 Kistler Prize for his work isolating and sequencing ancient DNA which began in 1984 with a 2,400-year-old mummy.
- There has been no stopping Svante and in June 2010, the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) awarded him the Theodor Bücher Medal for outstanding achievements in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
- Three years later, in 2013, he received Gruber Prize in Genetics for ground breaking research in evolutionary genetics.
- In June 2015, he was awarded the degree of DSc (honoris causa) at NUI Galway.
- He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 2016
- In 2017, was awarded the Dan David Prize.
- In 2018, he received the Princess of Asturias Awards in the category of Scientific Research.
- In 2020 he won the Japan Prize for his outstanding work.
- Shortly after in 2021 he won the Massry Prize, a prize that is awarded to scientists who make sizable contributions in the biomedical sciences.
- Finally in 2022 Svante won the most coveted honor of all, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for sequencing the first Neanderthal genome.
Stay tuned for stories on each of our Nobel prize winners.