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Recent Class of American Nobel Laureates Honored on City Monument

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

American winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize pose next to their names, recently inscribed on the city's Nobel Monument American winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize pose next to their names, recently inscribed on the city's Nobel Monument (Marlon Bishop/WNYC)

One of the hidden perks of being a Nobel Laureate: having your name carved in stone, literally.

On Tuesday evening, city park officials unveiled new inscriptions on the city’s Nobel Monument. Carved out of pink granite, the monument sits in Theodore Roosevelt Park near the American Museum of Natural History and features the names of all 320 Americans to have won the Nobel Prize since Theodore Roosevelt took home the nation’s first in 1906. It’s the only such monument honoring American Nobel Laureates in the country.

The new inscriptions honored the three American laureates of 2010: chemist Richard Heck, economist Dale Mortensen and economist Peter Diamond. Diamond and Mortensen were on hand to unveil their inscriptions, alongside the ambassadors from Sweden and Norway and New York City Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe.

According to Benepe, the monument has a special meaning in New York City.

“It’s also a monument to New York’s intellectual achievements and New York’s role as the intellectual capital of the world,” said Benepe. “Because ... a really disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners have an affiliation with New York, including close to 30 who attended New York City public schools.”

One of those Nobel Prize-winning New Yorkers is economist Peter Diamond. Diamond works on labor market theory at MIT, but grew up in the Bronx and went to local public schools through second grade.

As Diamond looked over the monument, he enjoyed seeing his name next to some of his intellectual heroes.

“My mentor Bob Solow is right there above me. My other thesis advisor, Paul Samuelson, he's up here,” said Diamond. “So there's a real sense of connection and continuity with the men I looked up to and who looked after me.”

Diamond was in the news last year when he was tapped by President Obama to fill a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. He later withdrew his name from consideration, citing fierce Republican opposition during the confirmation hearings, according to an op-ed he wrote in The New York Times.

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