Congratulations to Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, winners of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery that stomach ulcers are caused, not by stress as was formerly believed, but by a bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This is a classic Nobel-type discovery beginning with Warren’s acute observation, and continuing with Marshall’s work in culturing and identifying the bacterium.
It’s a striking observation that, thirty years ago, nearly everybody “knew” two things about stress: it was the primary cause of ulcers and it was particularly common among people men in executive jobs. Although widely held, these beliefs had never been properly tested by research and both turned out to be false. Surprising as it may seem, it’s more stressful to be ordered about than to order other people about. More precisely, the prevalence of stress-related diseases increases as you go down hierarchies of authority, status and so on.
The Nobel Prize for Economics must be coming up soon. I have some ideas as to who should win, but as I’m very peripherally involved in the selection process, I’ll keep them to myself.
fn1. Strictly speaking, the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel