How One Nobel Laureate Gave Another a Hand

2009 Nobel laureate Carol Greider
Carol Greider is one of just eight women to win a Nobel Prize in a science field since 1901. In part, she can thank another Nobel Laureate, Paul Greengard, who established a prize in memory of his mother to recoginze women in science and brought attention to Greider's work.

When the Nobel Prize in medicine is awarded in Sweden this Thursday, two of the three Americans sharing the prize will be women. And one of those women will have an earlier Nobel winner to thank at least in part for helping to make the moment possible, as CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace reports.

When Carol Greider, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, learned she won the Nobel Prize in science the first thing she did was tell her kids.

"I had to wake them up because it was very early and they were just very excited," Greider said. "I've been getting messages from people all over the world from people saying how exciting it is not just for me but for the whole field."

Miles away, in New York, neuroscientist Paul Greengard - a Nobel laureate himself who helped bring international attention to Greider's work last year - felt like a proud father.

Only eight women have been awarded a Nobel in science since 1901.

"This is explicitly one of our goals to help women win the Nobel Prize and I never dreamed it would come so soon," Greengard said.

The award triggered memories of the day when he was 20 and was told something shocking. His mother, Pearl Meister, died while giving birth to him and every trace of her had been destroyed; not even a photo remained.

"It's amazing," Greengard said. "I can't get over it."

To honor the mother he never knew, Greengard took his Nobel Prize money, $400,000, and established the prestigious Pearl Meister Greengard award - a science prize for women of high accomplishment.

Last year, Greider won the award. She believes it encourages women to overcome the sometimes subtle barriers to the top.

"I don't think it has to be overt - 'We're going to ignore Jill,' but rather just 'I'm just not comfortable bringing her into the group,'" Greider said.

Greengard is motivated by the hundreds of letters from women scientists who say they've faced discrimination. But more personally, he's forging a link to his mother.

"It made her more realistic for me," he said.

And it also helps women scientists like Carol Greider get the recognition they deserve.