Dr. Svante Lindqvist, the founding Director of the Nobel Museum, admits that winning a Nobel Prize comes down to being a matter of chance. However at the recent Festival of Thinkers conference hosted in Abu Dhabi, Lindqvist, who is now President of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Marshal of the Realm to the Swedish Royal Court, points out some common traits and education upbringings past winners have had in common:
1. Courage. Many Nobel laureates have challenged theories of the establishment and endured years of being scorned by their colleagues. Lindqvist says it takes great courage and belief in yourself to be a successful scientist as many spend decades proving pre-conceived ideas.
2. Challenging the Status Quo. "The nature of science is that what you learned and believed will be burned in 50 years," says Lindqvist. "Students should be encouraged to experiment even if means continuous failures." Lindqvist points out that it's a challenging thing to do because for example in Sweden, scientists are often given grants for three years of research. It's a short amount of time so scientists tend to pick safer problems to explore.
3. Willingness to be Mobile. It is rare for a Nobel laureate to have spent time at one single institution. "Successful scientists move around from one environment to another as it helps expose them to different cultures and mindsets."
4. Exploring the Unknown. Without knowing if it will be useful to them in the future or not, Nobel laureates still took the time to explore things that interested them.
5. Openness to Chance. While only the lucky few with an exploratory mindset will make a Nobel worthy discovery, Lindqvist points out that chance only favors the prepared minds.
6. Dedication. Scientists and authors such as Ernest Hemingway worked for hours every day.
7. Exceptional teachers. Nobel laureates often had one or two teachers in junior high school that had a great influence on them from the ages of 13 to 15.
These are excerpts from a special edition on the Festival of Thinkers conference that will be published this Spring through Arabic Knowledge@Wharton .