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NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part II. Physiology, medicine and literature)

NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part III. Peace Prize, Economics)
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Laureates: David Julius (the USA), Ardem Patapoutian (the USA).

Awarded for the discovery of temperature and touch receptors.


NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part II. Physiology, medicine and literature)
David Julius, Ardem Patapoutian / Niklas Menmehed © Nobel Prize Information Service /


American physiologist David Julius and Armenian-American molecular biologist and neurobiologist Ardem Patapoutian revealed one of the secrets of nature – they found out how nerve impulses are excited, thanks to which we can feel temperature and touch.

These feelings underlie our interaction with the world around us. The Commitee said that the findings of the two Americans expanded understanding of how the nervous system perceives heat, cold, and mechanical stress.

Ardem Patapoutian was born in 1967 in Beirut (Lebanon) into an Armenian family. In his youth, he moved to Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California, in 1990 received a bachelor’s degree in cytology and developmental biology, and in 1996 received a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology (a private university in Pasadena, the USA)… He was also a doctoral student at the University of California, San Francisco.

In 2000, Patapoutian became an assistant professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. And since 2014, Ardem has also been a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In the 2000s, he recruited pressure-sensitive cells and discovered a new class of receptors (TRPM8) that are activated by low temperatures.

David Julius was born in 1955 in New York. He is the son of Jewish immigrants from the USSR and has been a professor at the University of California at San Francisco since 1990. David, just like the first laureate Ardem Patapoutian, is known for his research on receptors. With the help of capsaicin (a substance that is in red pepper and is responsible for its burning taste), back in the 1990s, he identified the TRPV1 receptor in the nerve endings of the skin, which reacts to heat.

“This year’s laureates allowed us to understand how temperature or mechanical force initiates nerve impulses that enable us to perceive the world and adapt,” the Nobel Committee said.

This technology can potentially be applied in various fields – from medicine to virtual reality and robotics.




Laureate: Abdulrazak Gurnah (Tanzania).

Awarded for “uncompromising and compassionate exploration of the consequences of colonialism and the fate of refugees in the swirl of cultures and continents”.


NOBELS 2021: on the verge of simplicity and freedom (Part II. Physiology, medicine and literature)
Abdulrazak Gurnah / Niklas Menmehed © Nobel Prize Information Service /


Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in 1948 in Zanzibar, in 1968 he emigrated to the UK. In 1982 he received his doctorate from the University of Kent. The key themes of his works are colonialism, interethnic African conflicts, migration.

In his novels, Gurnah writes about how much harm the colonial practices of Europeans have done to the inhabitants of East Africa compared to any local conflicts or disputes.

In total, Abdulrazak Gurnah, who turned 72 in December last year, wrote 11 novels, the latest of which, Afterlives, was published in 2020. Paradise was shortlisted, while Desertion and By the Sea were shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

“Sometimes ideas take time to mature. I has worked on Paradise, my shortlisted novel by Booker, for ten years. During this time, I managed to publish three more books”.

Until recently, Gurnah was a professor at the University of Kent and focused on postcolonial literature.

“Every writer has been cultivating one, and rather small, piece of land all his life, just every time he looks at it from a different angle. It is not happening on purpose – we just care about the same things all our lives. Even if you want to switch to other topics, important questions for the author come up again. They reflect the way a writer thinks, and sometimes even shape him,” says Gurnah.


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