Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold (Ph.D. ’85, ChemE) carries on a fun Nobel tradition: signing the underside of the seat of one of the wooden chairs in the Nobel Museum Café in Stockholm. She co-signed her chair with fellow Chemistry Laureates George Smith and Gregory Winter. Then, settling in for an event at the museum, she chose to sit on the chair signed by the Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He signed his chair in 2011 on a visit to Stockholm.
The tradition begun in 2001. Felix Rosén, a museum guide, commented, “Any Nobel winner is allowed to leave their mark on a chair. The tradition is believed to have started with former U.S. President and philanthropist Bill Clinton, who has not won a Nobel Prize in any category. Attending the museum’s opening in 2001, Clinton is said to have spontaneously signed and dated the bottom of a chair without being asked.
We liked it and thought, ‘Hey, let’s make all the Nobel laureates do that.’ And we’ve had the tradition ever since.”