Primary Goals for Boulder's Nobel Circle

Boulder's Individual Nobel Laureates

Thomas R. Cech, Chemistry Prize, 1989
Genetics: Catalytic Properties of RNA
Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman, Physics Prize, 2001
Bose-Einstein Condensation, a new State of Matter

John L. Hall, Physics Prize, 2005
The Optical Frequency Comb and Precise Measurements

David J. Wineland, Physics Prize, 2012
Quantum Entanglement and Quantum Computing

Group Nobel Award

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Peace Prize, 2007
A Cautionary Tale that Climate Change will create civil strife.
The Coordinating Lead Authors and the Lead Authors who did their research in Boulder will be listed.

Boulder's Nobel Circle

Before the 1950s Boulder was a university town, with farming on the plains and recreation to be had in the mountains. With the arrival of IBM, NIST, NOAA, and NCAR, we became something new - a high tech community. The University and the federal laboratories gave Boulder the strength in basic research to become a prominent player on the national scene. New businesses grew from this basic research; we sprouted wings and gained international recognition at the highest level: Five Nobel Prizes for Boulder citizen-scientists.

That is remarkable for our smallish city and suggests that Boulder is a special place. Some people will ask why worry about something as intangible as Boulder's place in the world, or Boulder's image? Several things could be mentioned but we think the most important is: Who do our kids think they are? Some -- probably even most -- grow up in that nether world of innocence, of friends, times of self absorption, and fun. However, from some experience, some image, they begin to choose a direction in life. What image should we as a community present for them to consider?

We believe that Boulder's image, both for the City and the County, should be what is most unique to Boulder. Boulder's Nobel Circle should represent advanced education, and high achievement, symbolized by our Nobel Prizes. Our Nobel Laureates are the celebrities of education. Stretch your imagination to the larger world. Athens has its Parthenon, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and Sydney has its Opera House. Boulder should have a Nobel Circle as its defining image. Incidentally, we would be the first city in the nation to make this visionary choice.

As our defining image Boulder's Nobel Circle should be placed in the most prominent place in the city -- the most visited area -- which is the Downtown Mall. The Mall is where the people are. Other locations, with fewer people, imply less exposure and less influence, a poorer investment of our resources. Where on the Mall? We suggest that you walk the Mall and see for yourself. Wells Fargo Bank has a stately character, enhanced by its landmark clock, very nice. But we suggest that you stand on the Mall outside the fence of the court house grounds, and look at the court house. It has a public character, it has historical community significance, and monumental scale. In our minds this is the grandest public setting in the city, the natural location for the Nobel Circle.

Boulder's heritage is memorialized in front of the old courthouse with images of a Native American, of hard-rock mining, war memorials, and the Lions Club fountain. J. Midyette, the architect, says that we do not want to just plop a monument on the Mall; it must reflect the "fabric of the Mall." The Nobel Circle represents the last half century of Boulder history and is a coherent extension of the existing historical artifacts. The Nobel Circle symbolizes both our recent past and our path into the future. Because we expect this monument to be the crown jewel of Boulder public art, it should be prominently displayed. We are confident that the Nobel Circle can be designed to enhance public events such as jazz concerts on the Mall.

How can we create a Nobel Circle that is inspiring for youngsters? By engaging students from our public schools to create original designs to be given to professional artists for consideration, and by also enlisting the national arts community in a design competition. We will sponsor a design competition among artists nation-wide. To qualify for the competition an artist must provide images of previous work at the intersection of science and art. From these submissions our committee will select two or three artists to provide competing designs for the Nobel Circle. We expect a provision in the design for visiting children to stand in the monument to have their pictures taken. The winner will be chosen according to which design fits the fabric of the Mall and which design will most effectively inspire young students.

Just as visiting Mount Vernon gives a feel for the history of our country in the time of George Washington, visiting the Nobel Circle, with its images of our Nobel Laureates, provides a setting for explaining what they actually did. The laureates and their research will become a focus of local science teaching, a personalized focus because as Boulder citizens the laureates are seen and recognized around town, and their research was done in Boulder. Their science is the frontier of modern research and its description can be adapted to the school curriculum. We expect to accomplish this with videos that introduce their personas and give discussions of their prize winning work. This will be STEM education at its best.

The videos are a project in themselves that will include clips for each of the Laureates -- their research and persona -- interspersed with comments from aspiring high school science students. This aspect of the Nobel Circle will be advised by Samantha Messier, the Science Curriculum Coordinator of our school district.

Building a Design Concept

Isaac Newton, as interpreted by William Blake, circa 1800

The gold colored figures are James Watt and his colleagues discussing steam engines, designed by William Bloye and Raymond Forbes-Kings, 1956

The polished aluminum relief sculpture, by Brad Baxley (2013) shows the range of research from atoms to astrophysics, at JILA

Giving a model of the Bohr atom to students

Discussing the role of DNA and RNA in biology

Climate change research is illustrated by showing a discussion of earth satellites and what they measure

Nobel Circle Committee

Honorary Chairman
John Hickenlooper Governor, Colorado
The Nobel Circle Committee is not institutionally sponsored, but it consists of private citizens with affiliations as follows:
  • Kirk Ambrose, Department Chair of Art and Art History
  • Paul Beale, Department Chair of Physics
  • William Haynes, NIST Scientist Emeritus
  • Murray Holland, Department Chair of JILA
  • Robert Kamper, Emeritus Director of NIST Boulder
  • Cassy Matthews, Mugs & Wit media consultant
  • Don McDonald, Committee Liaison and NIST alumnus
  • Christina Pierson, Teacher, Louisville Elementary School
  • Tarek Sammakia, Department Chair of Chemistry
  • Virginia Schick, Art Educator, Boulder High
  • Stein Sture, Vice Chancellor for Graduate Research
  • Will von Dauster, NOAA media designer and producer
  • Lyn Wolfe, Emeritus Professor of Sculpture

Cost Estimate for Boulder's Nobel Circle

The design and construction of the Nobel Circle project is expected to be approximately $500,000.