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Satyarthi’s autographed chair, Amartya bicycle at Nobel museum

Kailash Satyarthi

Stockholm, Dec 16 (PTI) “For me this chair is still empty and waiting and inviting millions of left out children,” wrote Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi under a chair at the Nobel Museum here, thus keeping with the tradition of a unique kind of autograph given by the laureates.

The Nobel chairs are not only museum artefacts but also a guest book of sorts cataloguing the signatures of all the Nobel laureates who paid a visit to the museum, says Tobias Degsell, curator at the Nobel Museum.

Otherwise, they are used by hundreds of visitors daily when they take their lunch or coffee at the Nobel Museum’s cafe Bistro. Satyarthi visited the museum on December 12.

Though his co-winner Malala Yuosafzai did not visit the museum, she has donated a dress of hers which has been put on display.

The museum has over 230 such signatures. Famous signatories include US President Barack Obama, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, economist John Nash and DNA-discoverer James Watson.

Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, however, was not able to make it in person to the Museum, but signed the chair during a meeting with the Nobel Foundation.

Apart from Satyarthi’s autograph, another item on display at the museum related to India is a bicycle of Amartya Sen, who won the Economics Nobel in 1998.

“Bicycles are not the most common tools in economic science, but Amartya Sen’s bicycle played a significant role in his research,” Degsell told.

A large part of Sen’s work was concerned with the conditions of the most impoverished members of society and how these can be improved.

In a study on differences between baby girls and boys, he employed an assistant to weigh the children. Problems arose when the children did not want to be weighed, and the assistant was not able to do anything. So Sen bicycled through the countryside of West Bengal, weighing the children himself.

According to Degsell, there are two books connected to India though these are not displayed currently at the museum due to space constraint.

“One of them belongs to Sen and the other to India’s first Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore,” he says.

“Sen used the mathematics textbook when he was in school. It is written in Hindi, although this is not the most common language spoken in West Bengal, where he grew up,” he says.

Tagore’s small book contains his thoughts and poems.

“Among these are a hand-written poem by Tagore, who gave the book to Andree Karpeles Hogman in 1923,” Degsell says.

Hogman was an artist from France who spent some years in Santiniketan, where Tagore ran a school. It was there that she both painted and translated Tagore’s poems into French.

After the end of World War II, she and her husband adopted a girl who had lost her father while fleeing from the Nazis and lost her mother in a concentration camp.

The book later became the property of this adoptive daughter, Flora Hogman, who eventually settled in New York.

“When one of the Nobel Museum’s staff, Margrit Wettstein, came into contact with Flora Hogman during the course of her research, she offered to donate the book to the Nobel Museum,” says Degsell, adding the book was given to the museum in 2007.

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