Remember the Name! Tu YouYou, Nobel 2015!
By Shlomo Maital
Chinese scientist Tu Youyou has won China’s first Nobel Prize for Science – other ethnic Chinese have won Nobels, but Dr. Tu is the first to win one for work done entirely within China – and under really touch circumstances.
Tu is 84 years old. She did her work under Chairman Mao. During the cultural revolution, engineers and scientists were suspect. Her husband, an engineer, was sent to the country to work on a farm. Tu was allowed to do her research, only because Mao wanted to find a remedy for malaria, which was afflicting North Vietnam soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Tu sought a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine, found promising candidates, then did proper scientific trials on them, until she narrowed the field down to what is today known as “artimesinin”, a key element in anti-malaria medicine today. Her discovery, part of Mao’s “Project 523”, has saved countless lives. There must be a great many more wonderful rememdies hidden in traditional Chinese medicine, waiting for proper clinical trials.
Congratulations, Tu Youyou. Your work was done “to you”, “for you”, for the millions who die of malaria, especially children. Well done! Many more Chinese Nobel prizes will follow, I’m sure.