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2012 Chemistry Winner Let Nobel Call Go To Voice Mail


Life as a Nobel Peace Prize winner starts with a phone call. This year, the call for the Nobel Peace Prize went to the members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. That group worked to reorder their country after a revolution.


Many past Nobel winners received a phone call in the middle of the night. Brian Kobilka and his wife Tong Sun were woken up by their phone three years ago, and they just let it ring.

TONG SUN KOBILKA: Oh, another annoying telemarketing call.

BRIAN KOBILKA: The phone is the landline, and we almost never use it. So we didn't answer the phone.

INSKEEP: That's right. They let the Nobel Prize call go to voicemail.

MONTAGNE: Luckily for him, the committee kept calling. So he picked up and heard a woman's voice.

B. KOBILKA: She had a very pleasant Swedish accent.

T. KOBILKA: And when I looked over, Brian was looking a little dazed.

B. KOBILKA: Perhaps my first thought was that I was dreaming.

MONTAGNE: She told him she was calling about the Nobel Prize - no dream, although that might be a dream - and passed the phone to the members of the Chemistry Committee.

B. KOBILKA: Then I really knew it was real. You know, I don't think any of my friends, first of all, would be able to put together such an elaborate hoax.

T. KOBILKA: I got the coffee pot going, thinking, oh, we'll have some coffee and breakfast. But it was go, go, go. We couldn't get back to sleep.

INSKEEP: That's Brian Kobilka, 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry along with his wife, Tong Sun. We have more on this year's winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, a quarter from Tunisia, elsewhere in today's program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: October 9, 2015 at 12:00 AM EDT
Nobel Prize winner Brian Kobilka's name is mispronounced in this report. The second "k" was left out. The correct pronunciation is "CO-bill-kuh."

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