October 6, 2020

Nobel Prize for Physics to be announced today; Only 3 women have received it so far


The Nobel Prize for Physics for this year will be announced on Tuesday by the Stockholm-based Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Alfred Nobel, known for his invention of dynamite, signed off his fortunes to a series of five prizes in his last will in 1985 that came to be recognised as the Nobel Prizes. The awards were first given out in 1901.

Here are some facts about the Nobel Prize for Physics:

Since 1901, the award has been given out 113 times to 212 individuals, including John Bardeen, who has received the award twice for his invention of a transistor and for his work in superconductivity. Each Nobel Prize can be shared by a maximum of three laureates for two separate works.

The first person to receive the prize in 1901 was German physicist Wilhelm Rontgen, who is known for his discovery of X-rays.

There have been six years when the Nobel Prize for Physics was not awarded, including 1916, 1931, 1934, and 1940 through 1942 because of the prevailing World War-I and II.

This was done keeping in mind the statute of Nobel Foundation that said: “If none of the works under consideration is found to be of the importance indicated in the first paragraph, the prize money shall be reserved until the following year. If, even then, the prize cannot be awarded, the amount shall be added to the Foundation’s restricted funds.”

As per this statute, the awards were withheld and given out the next year on eight occasions, including the Nobel Prize in 1922 awarded to Albert Einstein, and in 1919 to German physicist Max Plank, who had laid the foundations for quantum theory.

One of the delayed awards was also presented to the American-German physicist Otto Stern, who is known to be the second-most nominated persons for a Nobel Prize. Stern was nominated 82 times and had won the coveted prize in 1943.

Women’s suffrage activist Jane Addams, who had received a record 91 nominations, had received the Nobel Price for Peace in 1931. Details of nominations are not released until after 50 years.

The only Indian to have received the Nobel Prize for Physics was Professor CV Raman in 1930 for his discovery of the Raman effect. The highest number of the Nobel Prize in this category has been received by scientists from the United States of America (94), followed by Germany (26), and the United Kingdom (24).

Three women have won the Nobel Prize in this category, including Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018), to date.

Curie had also won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. She is the only woman and one of the four persons to have received two Nobel Prizes in two separate categories.

Lawrence Bragg was the youngest to win the Nobel Prize for Physics at the age of 25 in 1915 along with his father for studying crystal structures using X-rays. The oldest person to receive the award was Arthur Ashkin at the age of 96 in 2018 for his work on optical tweezers. Nobel prizes are not awarded posthumously.

Family of Nobel Laureates

Marie Curie and Pierre Curie became the first family members to win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903. Their daughter Irène Joliot-Curie followed her illustrious parents’ footsteps and bagged the prestigious award with her husband Frédéric Joliot in 1935.

Four pairs of fathers and sons have received the prize, including Neils Bohr for his understanding of atomic structure in 1922 and his son Aage N Bohr for his work on motion in atomic nuclei.

Of the 113 Noble Prizes for Physics that have been awarded since 1901, 47 were given to only one laureate, 32 and 34 to two and three laureates, respectively.


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