Some Interesting Nobel Prize Facts

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Here are some interesting Nobel Prize facts. Some others interesting facts and statistics can be found here and here.

 1.   Linus Carl Pauling (1901-1994) was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize for 1962. He is the only individual to receive two unshared Nobel awards. Often called the Einstein of chemistry, Pauling is widely regarded as the most important chemist of the twentieth century. A pioneer in the application of quantum theory to chemistry, he provided many of the key insights that permitted the details of chemical bonding to be understood. His “The Nature of the Chemical Bond” has been one of the most influential books in the history of science. Fifty years later, in 1989, the book still ranked among the top five most-cited books in the Institute for Scientific Information database. Pauling fought to stop the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and was awarded Peace Prize for the efforts.

As far as I can speculate Pauling tried very hard to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine. It was clear that anyone coming up with the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) would win a Nobel Prize. In February 1953 Pauling and Corey published a paper modeling DNA. His model contained several basic mistakes, including a proposal of neutral phosphate groups, an idea that conflicted with the acidity of DNA. In March 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick deduced the double helix structure of DNA. Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. A detailed description can be found here and here.

Linus Torvalds, developer of the Linux kernel, was named after Pauling. He likes to claim that he was named after Linus from the Peanuts comic strip. Torvalds has been quoted as saying, “I think I was named equally for Linus the peanut-cartoon character,” noting that this makes him half “Nobel-prize-winning chemist” and half “blanket-carrying cartoon character.”

In 1923 Pauling met Ava Helen Miller in a chemistry class, and she married him despite his admission that “If I had to choose between you and science. I’m not sure that I would choose you.” Pauling championed large daily doses of Vitamin C as an aid to good health, an idea rejected at first by the medical establishment but eventually shown to have much in its favor. He died at ninty-three of cancer, certain that vitamin C had prolonged his life.

2.   John Bardeen (1908 – 1991) was an American physicist and electrical engineer, the only person to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice: first in 1956 and again in 1972. After working at several universities and, during World War II, at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, he went to Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1945 where he joined a semiconductor research group led by William Shockley. In the group produced the first transistor, for which Shockley, Bardeen and their collaborator Walter Brattain received a Nobel Prize in 1956. Bardeen later said, “I knew the transistor was important, but I never foresaw the revolution in electronics it would bring.”

In 1955 Bardeen left Bell Labs for the University of Illinois where, together with Leon Cooper and J Rober Schrieffer, he developed the theory of superconductivity known as the BCS theory. Bardeen’s developments in superconductivity are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Bardeen received his second Nobel Prize in 1972 for this theory along with Cooper and Schrieffer. He was the first person to receive two such prizes in the same field. Fredrick Sanger received two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry in 1958 and 1980.

3.   According to Jack Steinberger, the winner of 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics.

To get the Nobel Prize in Physics you have to do two things. Come up with an interesting thing while you are young and then stay alive long enough.

 I will narrate one such case. The wave nature of moving electrons is the basis of the electron microscope. It uses a beam of electrons to illuminate a specimen and produce a magnified image. An electron microscope (EM) has greater resolving power than a light-powered optical microscope because electrons have wavelengths about 100,000 times shorter than visible light (photons). The German physicist Ernst Ruska and the electrical engineer Max Knoll constructed the prototype electron microscope in 1931. Two years later, in 1933, Ruska built an electron microscope that exceeded the resolution attainable with an optical microscope. He got recognition of his work about 50 years later. In 1986, he was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his many achievements in electron optics, including the design of the first electron microscope. Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer won a quarter each for their design of the scanning tunneling microscope. Ernst Ruska died in West Berlin in 1988, just two years after getting the Prize.

4.   The Curies were a very successful ‘Nobel Prize family’. Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel for their discovery of the radioactive elements radium and polonium. Marie Curie received a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. Her daughter Irene Joloit-Curie shared the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with her husband Frederic Joloit-Curie for their work on production of radioactive substances by bombardment with alpha particles. It can be said that Marie and Pierre were recognizes for their work in natural radioactivity while Irene and Frederic were recognized for their work in artificial radioactivity.

5.   Sir Joseph John “J. J.” Thomson was awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the electron and for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases. In way he verified the particle nature of electron. In 1927 Clinton Davisson and Lester Germer in the United States and Sir George Paget Thomson (son of J. J. Thomson) in England independently confirmed wave-like properties of electrons by demonstrating that electron beams are diffracted when they are scattered by the regular atomic array of crystals. All three received the Nobel Prizes in Physics in 1937. The wave-particle duality seems to have been a family business!

6.   Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in Copenhagen. Bohr has been described as one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century. Aage Niels Bohr (son of Niels Bohr), Ben Roy Mottelson and James Rainwater were jointly awarded the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection.”

7.   The Nobel Prize in Physics 1915 was awarded jointly to Sir William Henry Bragg and his son William Lawrence Bragg “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.” Lawrence Bragg was 25 years old when he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Bragg is not only the youngest Physics Laureate, he is also the youngest Nobel Laureate in any Nobel Prize area.

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3 comments on “Some Interesting Nobel Prize Facts”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the facts about these Nobel laureates.
    Here, I want to mention another interesting fact about one of the Nobel prize winner I find pretty amusing. Ernest Rutherford, tying to emphasize importance and supremacy of Physics (over other branches of science) once said “All science is either physics or stamp collecting”. However, later he had to chew his words when he got the 1908 Nobel prize in Chemistry.

  2. Thanks for some other informative website. The place else may I get that kind of info written in such an ideal
    method? I have a project that I’m just now operating on, and I’ve been at the look out for such information.

  3. some body plz tel tell me ..who is that personz they both win the noble prize same subject but.. hve opposite veiwz ..

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