Stockholm Visit Worth More Than A Nobel NPR's Joe Palca attended the Nobel Prize ceremony this past week and met up with his friend, Nobel Prize winner Carol Greider. He reports on the special event and describes what it's like to attend a white-tie banquet.

Stockholm Visit Worth More Than A Nobel

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


A record five women were honored with Nobel Prizes this past week, and NPR's Joe Palca tagged along with one of them.

JOE PALCA: It's a week choked with events honoring the Nobel laureates. The Wednesday night reception at the Nordic Museum was fairly typical. The laureates and several hundred well-wishers wander around eating canap�s and drinking champagne. It's easy to spot the Nobel laureates, because they're at the nucleus of a halo of fans.

Ms. CAROL GREIDER (Nobel Prize Winner): Joe Palca, he's my friend. He's an NPR reporter, so he's following me around and�

PALCA: That's Carol Greider, the winner of this year's medicine Nobel. Carol and I really are friends. We met on a bike trip 17 years ago. The gaggle surrounding her now wants to know how she decided where to go to grad school.

Ms. GREIDER: And actually I applied to a number of different graduate schools, but as I've said various places, I was dyslexic, so I didn't do very well on standardized tests. So I only got into two of the, I think, 10 places that I applied to for graduate school.

PALCA: One of those was the University of California, Berkeley. While she was in graduate school, she discovered an enzyme now called telomerase that's crucial for cells to keep dividing. It was her graduate work that won her the Nobel in medicine, along with her graduate advisers Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak.

The really big event of Nobel week is the Nobel banquet � a sit down dinner for 1,300 people. For men to attend, they must wear white tie and tails.

Mr. JARL DAHLQUIST: So we start with trying the jacket, and then we'll try your trousers on.

PALCA: Jarl Dahlquist(ph) has been solving men's formal wear problems for 40 years. I need everything: jacket, trousers, suspenders, vest, shirt, shirt studs, cufflinks, dress shoes and, of course, the white tie. After we assemble a costume that fits, Dahlquist explains how you put it all on.

Mr. DAHLQUIST: You start with the shirt, I mean, you take it off, put two studs in here. It's like small cufflinks, yes. So and so, right, true? Then the tie comes like that, over the wings.

PALCA: Over the wings.

Mr. DAHLQUIST: Yes, and around.

PALCA: He advised me to give myself plenty of time to get dressed.

The banquet is held in Stockholm City Hall. There are more than five dozen tables to accommodate all the guests. Dinner was smashing: truffle-stuffed quail, and a lemon and fresh cheese mousse with sea buckthorn sorbet.

After dinner, Carol Greider was supposed to exit up a staircase on the arm of Willard Boyle, one of this year's physics laureates. But Dr. Boyle is in his 80s and a bit frail, so at the last minute he decided to take the elevator rather than the stairs, leaving Carol without an escort. The Swedish king's son, Carl Philip, recognized the problem, and in a perfect display of noblesse oblige, took Carol's arm and escorted her up the stairs. I was saved by a prince, Carol told me afterwards.

A magical week.

Joe Palca, NPR News, Stockholm.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.