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    1966 Nobel Medal for Medicine

    Francis Peyton Rous: Nobel Prize Medal, Diploma, and Related Materials. In 1966 Peyton Rous won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his pioneering work that resulted in one of most seminal discoveries in medical research in the twentieth century, the relationship of viruses to cancer. Dr. Rous shared this honor equally with Charles Brenton Huggins, a specialist in prostate cancer who showed that hormone therapy could be used to control the spread of certain cancers.

    The medal, designed by Swedish artist Erik Lindberg, measures 6.5 cm in diameter (approximately 2.5") and weighs 204.0 grams. Struck in 23 carat gold, the obverse features a side portrait of Alfred Nobel with the dates of his birth and death in Roman numerals. The reverse, the design of which is unique to the medal for Physiology or Medicine, "represents the Genius of Medicine holding an open book in her lap, collecting the water pouring out from a rock in order to quench a sick girl's thirst." (www.nobelprize.org, accessed July 27, 2015) An inscription appears above the figures, reading: "INVENTAS VITAM JUVAT EXCOLUISSE PER ARTES." Taken from the sixth song, verse 663, of Virgil's Aeneid, it is translated as, "inventions enhance life which is beautified through art." The lower section of the medal bears a second inscription, "REG. UNIVERSITAS MED. CHIR. CAROL," the Karolinska Institutet. The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet, one of the most esteemed medical universities in Europe, is responsible for choosing the laureates for the award for Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Rous' name is engraved in a plate below the figures along with the year of the prize, 1966, presented in Roman numerals: "Peyton Rous / MCMLXVI." The medal is housed in an elegant, yet simple, maroon leather case with "P. Rous" giltstamped on the lid, surrounded by a decorative gilt border featuring four gilt fleur-de-lis in the corners. When open, the inside lips of both the top and bottom feature a giltstamped border. The medal rests securely in a fitted box of yellow velvet with satin lined top.

    Accompanying the Nobel medal is the second piece of the prize, the Nobel diploma. Comprised of two printed pages, measuring 9.5" x 14" (when closed), written entirely in Swedish, Stockholm, December 10, 1966. The diploma features a gold embossed facsimile of the obverse of the medal on the first page, below which appears the quote (translated from Swedish), "To those who have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind," taken from Alfred Nobel's will. The name "Peyton Rous" appears in gilt on the second page directly above the explanation why he has been selected to receive such a prestigious award. The diploma bears three signatures at the end, presumably members of the Nobel Foundation. Mounted in a red leather portfolio, Dr. Rous' initials appear on the front cover in gilt, surrounded by a decorative gilt border, which is also found on the rear cover. The pages of the diploma are very lightly toned around the edges. The entire diploma is housed in an olive green cloth hard case lined in brown suede with "P R" giltstamped on the front.

    Also included is a black leather portfolio, measuring 9.75" x 12.75", lined in green with five pockets. Rous' name is emblazoned on the interior in gilt, reading, "Peyton Rous / Nobel Laureate 1966." On the opposite side, also in gilt, is a large "N" surrounded by a circle, below which reads, "Nobel Foundation / Stockholm." Found within is Rous' personal programme to the "Nobel Festival / 1966," including all relevant information and a day-by-day itinerary of the festivities, spanning the dates December 7 through 13, 1966, housed in a 6" x 3.75" black leather folded case; a tri-fold black leather case bearing Rous' name in gilt; a white-red-black-gold ribbon measuring 49.25" x 2.5" to which is pinned a 1.25" x 1.25" rod of Asclepius; a booklet, 6" x 4", transcribing all Nobel acceptance speeches for physics, chemistry, medicine, and literature into French, English, and German; a brass ball point Cross brand pen bearing an engraved facsimile of Rous' signature; and five unused, blank greeting cards featuring a photograph of the Nobel House in Stockholm.

    With a photograph album of brown leather, measuring 10.25" x 12", containing thirty-one photographs; five clippings from magazines and eleven clippings from international newspapers; a second personal programme to the Nobel Festival (similar to the one mentioned above); and twelve invitations, booklets (two, written in Swedish), and dinner menus. The photographs, all but two of which are in black and white, are dated December 6 (the day in which the Rouses departed for Stockholm) through December 10. The majority of the photos show the proceedings of the award ceremony, including many with all six 1966 Nobel Prize recipients. Each photograph bears a pen notation on the verso providing various information such as the date, time, who is in the photo, etc. In several images, Dr. Rous can clearly be seen holding the small red box housing his Nobel medal and red portfolio housing his Nobel diploma (described above).

    In addition to the above, this lot includes eight letters and telegrams, mostly conveying well wishes and congratulations to Rous on his Nobel Prize; a one and a half page itinerary for Dr. Rous' trip to Sweden; a one page receipt for 150,000 Swedish kronor (the third part of the Nobel Prize), written in Swedish; and a six page typed transcription of Dr. Shmuel Y. Agnon's speech at the Nobel banquet. Dr. Agnon was the 1966 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

    Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) first established the Nobel Prize in 1895. Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, was condemned by the French press in 1888 following a false report that he had died (it was actually his brother) and, not wanting to be forever remembered as the "Merchant of Death" or the man who got "rich by finding ways to kill more people faster," he resolved to repair his legacy before it was too late. Using a portion of his last will and testament, he stated: "The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts." Those five parts are still represented today as the prizes for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace (the prize for economics did not appear until 1969). Each Nobel laureate is presented a medal, a personalized diploma, and a cash prize.

    Born on October 5, 1879 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Charles Rous, a grain exporter, and Frances Anderson Wood, the daughter of a Texas judge, the future Nobel Laureate received his B.A. (1900) and M.D. (1905) from Johns Hopkins University. After finishing medical school, Rous decided to concentrate on research rather than medical practice, spending a year as an instructor in pathology at the University of Michigan and a summer studying morbid anatomy at the Friedrichstadt Municipal in Dresden, Germany. In 1909, Rous accepted an invitation from Simon Flexner, director of the newly-founded Rockefeller Institute (later becoming Rockefeller University) in New York City, to direct the Institute's laboratory for cancer research. Within a few months, an event occurred which lead Rous into his path-breaking investigations. A local poultry-breeder brought to the Institute a Plymouth Barred Rock hen with a large breast tumor and Rous, after conducting numerous experiments, determined that the tumor was a sarcoma (a tumor of cells in the connective tissue). Rous then transferred a cell-free filtrate from the tumor into healthy chickens of the same inbred stock, and each of them developed identical tumors. When he injected a filtrate from the new tumors into other chickens, a malignancy exactly like the original formed. Rous concluded that the tumors were caused by a filterable agent or virus. Now called the Rous sarcoma virus (RSV) and classed as an RNA retrovirus, it remains the prototype of animal viruses and a favorable model for studying the role of genes in cancer.

    Rous's discovery met with strong resistance and skepticism because it challenged long-held assumptions that cancer was not infectious but rather a spontaneous, uncontrolled growth of cells. Many scientists dismissed Rous's finding as a disease peculiar to chickens, thus having little resemblance to human cancers. In fact, the implications of Rous's findings would not be recognized for decades. By 1915, Rous had abandoned his work on the sarcoma and did not resume his investigations until the early 1930s.

    During World War I, Rous, along with J. R. Turner and O. H. Robertson, discovered that whole blood could be preserved for many weeks under refrigeration when it was part of a nitrate solution, which lead to the creation of the world's first blood banks in 1918. It was not until 1934, however, when Rous's Rockefeller Institute colleague, Richard Shope, discovered that a virus caused warts on the skin of wild rabbits, that Rous renewed his investigations into the virus theory of cancer. Over the next three decades, Rous' discoveries were reinforced and confirmed as other researchers reported links between viruses and various cancers in birds, mice, and other mammals. Fifty-six years after he began his pioneering experiments on the Plymouth Barred Rock hen, Rous was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

    In addition to the Nobel Prize, Rous received numerous awards and several honorary degrees in recognition of his scientific achievements. He was the longest serving editor of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, holding that post from 1922 to 1970.

    Rous married Marion Eckford deKay on June 15, 1915, and together they had three daughters. He died on February 16, 1970 in New York City.

    Reference: "The Nobel Medal for Physiology or Medicine". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 27 Jul 2015.


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    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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