September 16, 1999
University Gazette


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Scientific Descendants Sought For Ig Nobels

Are you descended from Darwin, or did your great-great-grandmother patent the disposable diaper? If you have a famous scientist or inventor ancestor, and if you'd like to be showered with applause and paper airplanes at Sanders Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 30, the organizers of the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony want to hear from you.

This year's Ig ceremony will feature a tribute to the theme "Heredity." Thus the introduction of descendants of famous scientists. Some, but not all, of them will be Harvard progeny. Marc Abrahams ’78, the Ig Nobel's emcee, points out that "every Harvard professor is of course, by definition, a famous scientist. But Sanders Theatre isn't big enough to contain all their children, so we might have to do some random choosing." To get in touch with Abrahams about hereditary matters, call (617) 491-4437 or e-mail

The Ninth First Annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will, as usual, honor achievements that "cannot or should not be reproduced." Seven of this year's 10 Ig Nobel Prize winners are journeying to Harvard to get what's coming to them. The prizes will be handed to them by a bemused gaggle of genuine Nobel laureates, including Harvard's own Dudley Herschbach (Chemistry '86), William Lipscomb (Chemistry '76), Sheldon Glashow (Physics '79), and Robert Wilson (Physics, '78). One of the Nobel laureates will be given away in the Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest, and all will take part in the premiere of a mini-opera based on the legend of Richard Seed '49. (Seed has announced publicly that he will clone himself and other human beings – a claim that won him an Ig Nobel Prize last year and inspired the writing of this mini-opera.)

The ceremony is produced by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), and co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association and the Harvard Computer Society. It will be televised live on the Internet.

Tickets for the ceremony are on sale at the Harvard Box Office in Holyoke Center. The event also will be recorded for later broadcast on National Public Radio's Science Friday program.

There are also several related events, including a lecture at the Medical School on Monday, Oct. 4, by this year's Ig Nobel Medicine Prize winner. A detailed schedule (and a complete list of past winners) is on the Web at


Thursday, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m., Sanders Theatre. Tickets available from the Harvard Box Office: $20/14 (students $15/12)

Live Internet broadcast on


Saturday, Oct. 2, 1 p.m., Kresge Little Theater, M.I.T.

Lectures by the new winners (and by Troy Hurtubise and Emily

Rosa), and a repeat performance of The Seedy Opera.


Monday, Oct. 4, 5 p.m., Harvard Medical School,

Carrie Hall, Brigham & Women's Hospital (use the 15 Francis St.

entrance). The winner of the 1999 Ig Nobel Medicine Prize will deliver a special lecture.


Copyright 1999 President and Fellows of Harvard College