10 Nobel Laureates Whose Work Changed the World


Hermann Muller

For every technological advance, there are trade-offs and potential side effects. Thanks to the work of Hermann Muller, who won the 1946 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, people realized the importance of tempering our knowledge with safety and care.

Muller won his prize for proving that X-rays cause mutations (called X-ray mutagenesis) in the human body. In the mid-1920s, he'd gathered significant evidence that exposing Drosophila flies to X-rays caused genetic mutations that shortened their lifespans. He was certain that the same kind of damage would occur in humans.

Although he'd been trying to publicize his work for around 20 years, it took the World-War II atomic bombings of Japan to underscore the dangers of radiation, X-rays and nuclear fallout. It was then that the Nobel committee finally recognized his research.

Muller's discoveries, as well as his anti-nuclear weapons politics, made him an invaluable counterweight to the world-changing technological advances of the Atomic Age.