You've Won The Nobel Prize — Wait, Don't Hang Up!

Peruvian Writer Mario Vargas Llosa Receives Nobel Prize For Literature. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa (right) gets a hug from former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo after Thursday's announcement that Llosa won the 2010 Nobel Prize forĀ  Literature. Mario Tama/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Tama/Getty

This year's Nobel Prize winners were announced this last week. Each year, one of the first calls those winners get comes from Adam Smith.

Mario Vargas Llosa

2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

"So, is it true then?"

Adam Smith is the editor of the Nobel website, He interviews winners after they're notified. He knows the winners in advance, of course, so he's usually quick to reach them. In the case of this call with 2009 Physics winner George Smith, he's occasionally the first.

George Smith

2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics

"Have you heard the news..."

The Nobel Committee is supposed to be the one to notify winners, Adam Smith tells NPR's Guy Raz. But some people hear the news from other sources, like 2008 winner Martin Chalfie, who slept through the committee's call.

Martin Chalfie

2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

"I was the schnook."

There are certain hazards of Smith's job, he says, like convincing people he's for real.

Calling For Edmund Phelps

2006 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences

"I know, it could be a hoax."

And sometimes, the people he calls don't have time for him.

Gerhard Ertl

2007 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

"Could you call back in a couple of minutes?"

One phone call this year actually seemed to upset winner Konstantin Novoselo, who was in the middle of taking measurements.

Konstantin Novoselo

2010 winner of Nobel Prize in Physics

"You're basically saying I should stop my experiments now?"

"I imagine that in retrospect, he's perfectly happy the day got messed up," Smith says.

But the best part about this job, he says, is sharing the moment before the publicity hits.

"They're elated, they're a bit surprised and confused by what's about to happen and what is happening to them, so you maybe catch them with their guard down a bit and that's nice, because it gives you a sort of window into the real persona behind the laureate."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.