PORTRAITS OF NOBEL LAUREATES IN PEACE by John & Richard S. Cramer Wintterle


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Fifty-three businesslike but variously vulnerable sketches that would have benefited from creative topical organization as much as the superior companion volume did -- Riedman's Nobel Laureates in Medicine and Physiology (1963). The authors maintain a dulling, not always defensible, parallelism in all the entries, mechanically noting circumstances of birth and death along with the dates, also the economic status of each subject's family whether or not it's relevant or even known (e.g., strainingly, ""since he attended the university. . . it can be assumed that the family possessed a modest amount of money""); they probe automatically for the source of every laureate's peace-orientation regardless of its demonstrable influence (""No one at school spoke to him for a month and he began to question the world in which he lived""). It's regrettable that with room for this and other trivia, no attention is paid to group-winners like the Red Cross or to the reasons why in some years no award was made; the succession of portraits doesn't function, then, as a history of the Prize. It does, however, generate some impact as a history of personal commitments -- different in kind and degree -- to peace: not only the ideology but also the particular concerns of contemporary pacifism prove hereby to have a (surprisingly?) long, sturdy heritage. The profiles themselves are uneven in intensity -- the perhaps most compelling, on Albert Luthuli, is appropriately extensive, but the most recent winner, Rene Cassin, is almost dismissed in two pages; Schweitzer's is strongest yet it critically omits discussion of why ""he decided to become a doctor and to practice. . . in Africa."" And although matters of record are generally reliably documented, there is a tendency to whitewash, slant, or carelessly define positions; that combined with the formal problems limits the book's overall reference value to marginal. Its main contribution of a panoramic perspective on 20th-century peace offerings is as yet unequalled -- quantitatively (the Meyer, 1959, treating just a fourth as many) and at the junior-high level.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1971
Publisher: Abelard-Schuman