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A Prize For Edie



A Prize For Edie







From: A Prize ... For Edie

The Committee had, unquestionably, made a mistake. There
was no doubt that Edie had achieved the long-sought cancer
cure ... but awarding the Nobel Prize was, nonetheless, a
mistake ...


The letter from America arrived too late. The Committee had regarded
acceptance as a foregone conclusion, for no one since Boris Pasternak
had turned down a Nobel Prize. So when Professor Doctor Nels Christianson
opened the letter, there was not the slightest fear on his part, or on that
of his fellow committeemen, Dr. Eric Carlstrom and Dr. Sven Eklund, that
the letter would be anything other than the usual routine acceptance.

"At last we learn the identity of this great research worker," Christianson
murmured as he scanned the closely typed sheets. Carlstrom and Eklund
waited impatiently, wondering at the peculiar expression that fixed itself
on Christianson's face. Fine beads of sweat appeared on the professor's
high narrow forehead as he laid the letter down. "Well," he said heavily,
"now we know."

"Know what?" Eklund demanded. "What does it say? Does she accept?"

"She accepts," Christianson said in a peculiar half-strangled tone as he
passed the letter to Eklund. "See for yourself."

Eklund's reaction was different. His face was a mottled reddish white as
he finished the letter and handed it across the table to Carlstrom. "Why,"
he demanded of no one in particular, "did this have to happen to us?"

"It was bound to happen sometime," Carlstrom said. "It's just our
misfortune that it happened to us." He chuckled as he passed the letter
back to Christianson. "At least this year the presentation should be an
event worth remembering."

"It seems that we have a little problem," Christianson said, making what
would probably be the understatement of the century. Possibly there would
be greater understatements in the remaining ninety-nine years of the
Twenty-first Century, but Carlstrom doubted it. "We certainly have our
necks out," he agreed.

"We can't do it!" Eklund exploded. "We simply can't award the Nobel Prize
in medicine and physiology to that ... that C. Edie!" He sputtered into
silence.

"We can hardly do anything else," Christianson said. "There's no
question as to the identity of the winner. Dr. Hanson's letter makes
that unmistakably clear. And there's no question that the award is
deserved."

"We still could award it to someone else," Eklund said.

"Not a chance. We've already said too much to the press. It's known all
over the world that the medical award is going to the discoverer of the
basic cause of cancer, to the founder of modern neoplastic therapy."
Christianson grimaced. "If we changed our decision now, there'd be all
sorts of embarrassing questions from the press."

"I can see it now," Carlstrom said, "the banquet, the table, the flowers,
and Professor Doctor Nels Christianson in formal dress with the Order
of St. Olaf gleaming across his white shirtfront, standing before that
distinguished audience and announcing: 'The Nobel Prize in Medicine and
Physiology is awarded to--' and then that deadly hush when the audience
sees the winner."

"You needn't rub it in," Christianson said unhappily. "I can see it, too."

"These Americans!" Eklund said bitterly. He wiped his damp forehead. The
picture Carlstrom had drawn was accurate but hardly appealing. "One simply
can't trust them. Publishing a report as important as that as a laboratory
release. They should have given proper credit."

"They did," Carlstrom said. "They did--precisely. But the world, including
us, was too stupid to see it. We have only ourselves to blame."

"If it weren't for the fact that the work was inspired and effective,"
Christianson muttered, "we might have a chance of salvaging this situation.
But through its application ninety-five per cent of cancers are now
curable. It is obviously the outstanding contribution to medicine in the
past five decades."

"But we must consider the source," Eklund protested. "This award will make
the prize for medicine a laughingstock. No doctor will ever accept another.
If we go through with this, we might as well forget about the medical award
from now on. This will be its swan song. It hits too close to home. Too
many people have been saying similar things about our profession and its
trend toward specialization. And to have the Nobel Prize confirm them
would alienate every doctor in the world. We simply can't do it."

"Yet who else has made a comparable discovery? Or one that is even half as
important?" Christianson asked.

"That's a good question," Carlstrom said, "and a good answer to it
isn't going to be easy to find. For my part, I can only wish that Alphax
Laboratories had displayed an interest in literature rather than medicine.
Then our colleagues at the Academy could have had the painful decision."

"Their task would be easier than ours," Christianson said wearily. "After
all, the criteria of art are more flexible. Medicine, unfortunately, is
based upon facts."

"That's the hell of it," Carlstrom said.

"There must be some way to solve this problem," Eklund said. "After all
it was a perfectly natural mistake. We never suspected that Alphax was a
physical rather than a biological sciences laboratory. Perhaps that might
offer grounds--"

"I don't think so," Carlstrom interrupted. "The means in this case aren't
as important as the results, and we can't deny that the cancer problem is
virtually solved."

"Even though men have been saying for the past two generations that the
answer was probably in the literature and all that was needed was someone
with the intelligence and the time to put the facts together, the fact
remains that it was C. Edie who did the job. And it required quite a bit
more than merely collecting facts. Intelligence and original thinking of
a high order was involved." Christianson sighed.

"Someone," Eklund said bitterly. "Some thing you mean. C.
Edie--C.E.D.--Computer, Extrapolating, Discriminatory. Manufactured
by Alphax Laboratories, Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.A. C. Edie!
Americans!!--always naming things. A machine wins the Nobel Prize.
It's fantastic!"

Christianson shook his head. "It's not fantastic, unfortunately. And I
see no way out. We can't even award the prize to the team of engineers who
designed and built Edie. Dr. Hanson is right when he says the discovery was
Edie's and not the engineers'. It would be like giving the prize to Albert
Einstein's parents because they created him."

* * * * *

"Is there any way we can keep the presentation secret?" Eklund asked.

"I'm afraid not. The presentations are public. We've done too good a job
publicizing the Nobel Prize. As a telecast item, it's almost the equal of
the motion picture Academy Award."

"I can imagine the reaction when our candidate is revealed in all her
metallic glory. A two-meter cube of steel filled with microminiaturized
circuits, complete with flashing lights and cogwheels," Carlstrom chuckled.
"And where are you going to hang the medal?"

Christianson shivered. "I wish you wouldn't give that metal nightmare a
personality," he said. "It unnerves me. Personally, I wish that Dr. Hanson,
Alphax Laboratories, and Edie were all at the bottom of the ocean--in some
nice deep spot like the Mariannas Trench." He shrugged. "Of course, we
won't have that sort of luck, so we'll have to make the best of it."

"It just goes to show that you can't trust Americans," Eklund said. "I've
always thought we should keep our awards on this side of the Atlantic where
people are sane and civilized. Making a personality out of a computer--ugh!
I suppose it's their idea of a joke."

"I doubt it," Christianson said. "They just like to name things--preferably
with female names. It's a form of insecurity, the mother fixation. But
that's not important. I'm afraid, gentlemen, that we shall have to make
the award as we have planned. I can see no way out. After all, there's no
reason why the machine cannot receive the prize. The conditions merely
state that it is to be presented to the one, regardless of nationality,
who makes the greatest contribution to medicine or physiology."

"I wonder how His Majesty will take it," Carlstrom said.

"The king! I'd forgotten that!" Eklund gasped.

"I expect he'll have to take it," Christianson said. "He might even
appreciate the humor in the situation."

"Gustaf Adolf is a good king, but there are limits," Eklund observed.

"There are other considerations," Christianson replied. "After all, Edie is
the reason the Crown Prince is still alive, and Gustaf is fond of his son."

"After all these years?"

Christianson smiled. Swedish royalty was long-lived. It was something
of a standing joke that King Gustaf would probably outlast the pyramids,
providing the pyramids lived in Sweden. "I'm sure His Majesty will
cooperate. He has a strong sense of duty and since the real problem is
his, not ours, I doubt if he will shirk it."

"How do you figure that?" Eklund asked.

"We merely select the candidates according to the rules, and according
to the nature of their contribution. Edie is obviously the outstanding
candidate in medicine for this year. It deserves the prize. We would
be compromising with principle if we did not award it fairly."

"I suppose you're right," Eklund said gloomily. "I can't think of any
reasonable excuse to deny the award."

"Nor I," Carlstrom said. "But what did you mean by that remark about
this being the king's problem?"

"You forget," Christianson said mildly. "Of all of us, the king has the
most difficult part. As you know, the Nobel Prize is formally presented
at a State banquet."

"Well?"

"His Majesty is the host," Christianson said. "And just how does one eat
dinner with an electronic computer?"





Next: A Question Of Courage

Previous: Pandemic



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