After more than thirty years of scientific research, Martin Rodbell's innovations were formally recognized. In 1984, the Gairdner Foundation of Ontario, Canada, presented him with its prestigious International Award. In 1987, the National Academy of Sciences inducted him as a member and honored him with the Richard Lounsbery Award. In 1994, Rodbell retired from the NIH and became Scientist Emeritus, having served as a researcher at its various institutes for nearly forty years.
In October 1994, Rodbell and Alfred Gilman were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the efforts of their combined research on the mechanisms of G-proteins in signal transduction. Rodbell accepted his Nobel Prize in the form of a poem written especially for the occasion.
After becoming Nobel Laureate, Rodbell was given several awards and honorary degrees from an international array of institutions. These included Baltimore City College, the Cleveland Clinic Educational Foundation, the Japanese Biochemical Society, The Johns Hopkins University, Sigma Xi (Scientific Research Society), the University of Geneva, the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Reflecting on his whole career in 1991, Rodbell made the following observation: "Nature cannot simply be fathomed by knowing its chemical and physical composition. The living process has evolved far beyond our knowledge of physics and chemistry. Understanding the organization and integration of all cellular information processing systems presents challenges that certainly will not be met in my lifetime, and perhaps never."