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Japanese, Two Americans Share Nobel Prize in Chemistry - 2001-10-10

The Swedish Academy of Sciences has named two Americans and a Japanese scientist to share this year's Nobel Prize for chemistry. At the same time, the academy awarded the Nobel Economics prize to three American professors.

It was the busiest day in a busy week of Nobel announcements.

The chemistry prize of nearly $1 million was split, with one-half going to William S. Knowles of the United States and Ryoji Noyori of Japan; the other half to K. Barry Sharpless of the United States.

The three scientists are pioneers in controlling chemical reactions, a field that has led to the development of many modern drugs, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and heart medicines.

Mr. Knowles, an 84-year-old retired researcher with the Monsanto Company in St. Louis, Missouri, was credited with a breakthrough more than 30 years ago that opened the way for production of modern drugs, including one used in treating Parkinson's disease. Mr. Noyori, now 63, followed up on Mr. Knowles's work, discovering ways to produce these medicines in large quantities so they could be widely available.

Mr. Sharpless, several years later, did research that led to development of beta-blockers that are widely used in treating heart disease. The Swedish Academy called Mr. Sharpless's work "one of the most important discoveries in his field in the past few decades."

Later in the day, the Nobel judges gave the economics prize to American professors George Akerlof of the University of California at Berkeley, A. Michael Spence of Stanford University and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University. A statement issued in Stockholm credited the three men with laying the foundation for a general theory of markets that has formed the core of modern information economics.

Earlier in the week, the Nobel Academy awarded prizes in physics and medicine. A Literature prize will be awarded Thursday, one day before announcement of the most prestigious Nobel award, the peace prize.

Each of the Nobel prizes carries with it nearly $1 million in cash. The awards are presented December 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite. This year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nobel prizes, all living laureates have been invited to participate in the special observances. At least 34 of the 39 living peace prize winners have indicated they will attend.