The Nobel Prize in Physics
(Nobelpriset i fysik) is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes
established by the will of Alfred Nobel
in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in chemistry
, Nobel Prize in literature
, Nobel Peace Prize
, and Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine
. The first Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
, a German, "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays
(or x-rays)." This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation
and widely regarded as the most prestigious award that a scientist can receive in Physics
. It is presented in Stockholm
at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary
of Nobel's death.
Nomination and selection
A maximum of three Nobel Laureates and two different works may be selected for the Nobel Prize in Physics. Compared with some other Nobel Prizes, the nomination and selection process for the Nobel Prize in Physics is long and rigorous. This is a key reason why these Nobel Prizes have grown in importance over the years to become the most important prizes in Physics.
These Nobel Laureates are selected by a committee that consists of five members elected by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In its first stage, several thousand people are asked to nominate candidates. These names are scrutinized and discussed by experts until only the winners remain. This slow and thorough process, insisted upon by Alfred Nobel, is arguably what gives the prize its importance.
Forms, which amount to a personal and exclusive invitation, are sent to about three thousand selected individuals to invite them to submit nominations. The names of the nominees are never publicly announced, and neither are they told that they have been considered for the Prize. Nomination records are sealed for fifty years. In practice some nominees do become known. It is also common for publicists to make such a claim, founded or not.
The nominations are screened by committee, and a list is produced of approximately two hundred preliminary candidates. This list is forwarded to selected experts in the field. They remove all but approximately fifteen names. The committee submits a report with recommendations to the appropriate institution.
While posthumous nominations are not permitted, awards can occur if the individual died in the months between the nomination and the decision of the prize committee.
The Nobel Prize in Physics requires that the significance of achievements being recognized is "tested by time." In practice it means that the lag between the discovery and the award is typically on the order of 20 years and can be much longer. For example, half of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar for his work on stellar structure and evolution that was done during the 1930s. As a downside of this approach, not all scientists live long enough for their work to be recognized. Some important scientific discoveries are never considered for a Prize, as the discoverers may have died by the time the impact of their work is realized.
The Nobel Prize in Physics consists of a gold medallion (the Nobel Prize Medal for Physics), a diploma, and a monetary grant. The Nobel Prize Medals, which have been minted in Sweden since 1902, are registered trademarks of the Nobel Foundation
. Their engraved designs are internationally-recognized symbols of the prestige of the Nobel Prize.
The front side (obverse) of the Nobel Prize Medals for Physics, Chemistry, Literature, and Physiology or Medicine (for the "Swedish Prizes") features the same engraved profile of Alfred Nobel with his name abbreviated as "Alfr. Nobel" to the left of his profile and the dates of his birth and death to the right of it (in capital letters and Roman numerals).
The reverse side of the medals for Physics and Chemistry is "The medal of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences," which "represents Nature in the form of a goddess resembling Isis, emerging from the clouds and holding in her arms a cornucopia. The veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science".
The grant is currently approximately 10 million SEK, slightly more than €1 million (US$1.6 million or £0.8 million ).
The Nobel Award Ceremony
The committee and institution serving as the selection board for the prize typically announce the names of the laureates in October. The prize is then awarded at formal ceremonies held annually on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel
's death. "The highlight of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is when each Nobel Laureate steps forward to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King of Sweden. ... Under the eyes of a watching world, the Nobel Laureate receives three things: a diploma, a medal and a document confirming the prize amount" ("What the Nobel Laureates Receive").
The Nobel Banquet is the banquet that is held every year in Stockholm City Hall in connection with the Nobel Prize.
- Friedman, Robert Marc (2001). The Politics of Excellence: Behind the Nobel Prize in Science. New York & Stuttgart: VHPS (Times Books). ISBN 0716731037 (10). ISBN 978-0716731030 (13).
- Gill, Mohammad (March 10, 2005). "Prize and Prejudice" Chowk ("Voices that question, provoke and inspire"; ideas, identities and interactions"; "Where paths intersect"). Accessed November 5, 2007. ("Chowk is a platform to publish, discuss and debate writings on a variety of issues that are important to the people of India, Pakistan, and other South Asian countries" ["About Chowk"].)
- Hillebrand, Claus D. (June 2002). "Nobel century: a biographical analysis of physics laureates" Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 27.2: 87-93.
- Lemmel, Birgitta. "The Nobel Prize Medals and the Medal for the Prize in Economics" nobelprize.org. Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2006. Accessed November 9, 2007. (An article on the history of the design of the medals featured on the official site of the Nobel Foundation.)
- "What the Nobel Laureates Receive" nobelprize.org. Copyright © Nobel Web AB 2007. Accessed November 9, 2007. (Featured link in "The Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies".)