Nobel Prize in Physics

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File:Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845--1923).jpg
Wilhelm Röntgen (1845 – 1923) was the first person to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics, for his discovery of x-rays.

The Nobel Prize in Physics (Swedish: 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. In 2007 the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Albert Fert (of France) and Peter Grünberg (of Germany) for the discovery of giant magnetoresistance; they share the prize amount of 10,000,000 SEK (slightly more than 1 million, or US$1.6 million).

Nomination and selection

Template:Tfd A maximum of three Nobel Laureates and two different works may be selected for the Nobel Prize in Physics.[1] 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.[2]

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.[citation needed]

The Award

The Nobel Prize in Physics consists of a gold medallion (the "Nobel Prize Medal for Physics"), a diploma, and a monetary grant.[1] 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.

Front side (obverse) of the Nobel Prize® Medal for Physics presented to Edward Victor Appleton in 1947; photograph: David Monniaux, Appleton Tower, University of Edinburgh, 2005Template:Puic
Front side (obverse) of the Nobel Prize® Medal for Physics presented to Edward Victor Appleton in 1947; photograph: David Monniaux, Appleton Tower, University of Edinburgh, 2005Template:Puic

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).[1]

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 Nobel Medal for Physics and Chemistry").[3]

The grant is currently approximately 10 million SEK, slightly more than 1 million (US$1.6 million).[1][4]

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.[1][4]

List of Laureates

180 Nobel Laureates in Physics have been selected as of 2007. The following chart includes the Nobel Laureates in Physics since its inceptions in 1901.[5]

Year Name Country Citation
1901 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen Germany "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays (or x-rays)"
1902 Hendrik Lorentz
Pieter Zeeman
Netherlands "in recognition of the extraordinary service they rendered by their researches into the influence of magnetism upon radiation phenomena". See Zeeman effect.
1903 Antoine Henri Becquerel France "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity"
Pierre Curie
Marie Curie
Poland / France
"in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel"
1904 John William Strutt United Kingdom "for his investigations of the densities of the most important gases and for his discovery of argon in connection with these studies"
1905 Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard Germany "for his work on cathode rays"
1906 Joseph John Thomson United Kingdom "in recognition of the great merits of his theoretical and experimental investigations on the conduction of electricity by gases"
1907 Albert Abraham Michelson United States "for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and metrological investigations carried out with their aid". See Michelson-Morley experiment.
1908 Gabriel Lippmann France "for his method of reproducing colours photographically based on the phenomenon of interference"
1909 Guglielmo Marconi
Karl Ferdinand Braun
"in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy"
1910 Johannes Diderik van der Waals Netherlands "For his work on the equation of state for gases and liquids." See van der Waals force.
1911 Wilhelm Wien Germany "for his discoveries regarding the laws governing the radiation of heat."
1912 Nils Gustaf Dalén Sweden "invention of automatic valves designed to be used in combination with gas accumulators in lighthouses and light-buoys."
1913 Heike Kamerlingh-Onnes Netherlands "For his investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures which led, inter alia, to the production of liquid helium"
1914 Max von Laue Germany "For his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals."
1915 William Henry Bragg
William Lawrence Bragg
Australia/United Kingdom "For their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays."
1916 no award prize purse allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1917 Charles Glover Barkla United Kingdom "For his discovery of the characteristic Röntgen radiation of the elements."
1918 Max Planck Germany "In recognition of the services he rendered to the advancement of Physics by his discovery of energy quanta." See Planck constant.
1919 Johannes Stark Germany "For his discovery of the Doppler effect in canal rays and the splitting of spectral lines in electric fields."
1920 Charles Édouard Guillaume Switzerland "in recognition of the service he has rendered to precision measurements in Physics by his discovery of anomalies in nickel steel alloys"
1921 Albert Einstein Germany
"for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his explanation of the photoelectric effect"
1922 Niels Bohr Denmark "for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them"
1923 Robert Andrews Millikan United States "for his work on the elementary charge of electricity and on the photoelectric effect"
1924 Manne Siegbahn Sweden "for his discoveries and research in the field of X-ray spectroscopy"
1925 James Franck
Gustav Hertz
Germany "for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom"
1926 Jean Baptiste Perrin France "for his work on the discontinuous structure of matter, and especially for his discovery of sedimentation equilibrium"
1927 Arthur Holly Compton United States "for his discovery of the effect named after him". See Compton effect.
Charles Thomson Rees Wilson United Kingdom "for his method of making the paths of electrically charged particles visible by condensation of vapour". See cloud chamber.
1928 Owen Willans Richardson United Kingdom "for his work on the thermionic phenomenon and especially for the discovery of the law named after him"
1929 Prince Louis-Victor Pierre Raymond de Broglie France "for his discovery of the wave nature of electrons". See De Broglie hypothesis.
1930 Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman India "for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him"
1931 no award prize purse allocated to the Special Fund for this prize.
1932 Werner Heisenberg Germany "for the creation of quantum mechanics, the application of which has, inter alia, led to the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen"
1933 Erwin Schrödinger
Paul Dirac
United Kingdom
"for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory"
1934 no award prize purse allocated half to the Main Fund and half to the Special Fund for this prize.
1935 James Chadwick United Kingdom "for the discovery of the neutron"
1936 Victor Francis Hess Austria "for his discovery of cosmic radiation"
Carl David Anderson United States "for his discovery of the positron"
1937 Clinton Joseph Davisson
George Paget Thomson
United States
United Kingdom
"for their experimental discovery of the diffraction of electrons by crystals". See wave-particle duality.
1938 Enrico Fermi Italy "for his demonstrations of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons"
1939 Ernest Lawrence United States "for the invention and development of the cyclotron and for results obtained with it, especially with regard to artificial radioactive elements"
1940 no award prize purse allocated half to the Main Fund and half to the Special Fund for this prize.
1943 Otto Stern Germany
United States
"for his contribution to the development of the molecular ray method and his discovery of the magnetic moment of the proton"
1944 Isidor Isaac Rabi United States "for his resonance method for recording the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei"
1945 Wolfgang Pauli Austria "for the discovery of the Exclusion Principle, also called the Pauli principle"
1946 Percy Williams Bridgman United States "for the invention of an apparatus to produce extremely high pressures, and for the discoveries he made there within the field of high pressure physics"
1947 Edward Victor Appleton United Kingdom "for his investigations of the physics of the upper atmosphere especially for the discovery of the so-called Appleton layer"
1948 Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett United Kingdom "for his development of the Wilson cloud chamber method, and his discoveries therewith in the fields of nuclear physics and cosmic radiation"
1949 Hideki Yukawa Japan "for his prediction of the existence of mesons on the basis of theoretical work on nuclear forces". See Yukawa potential.
1950 Cecil Frank Powell United Kingdom "for his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method"
1951 John Douglas Cockcroft
Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton
United Kingdom
"for their pioneering work on the transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles"
1952 Felix Bloch
Edward Mills Purcell
United States
"for their development of new methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements and discoveries in connection therewith"
1953 Frits Zernike Netherlands "for his demonstration of the phase contrast method, especially for his invention of the phase contrast microscope"
1954 Max Born Germany
1939: United Kingdom
"for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wavefunction"
Walther Bothe West Germany "for the coincidence method and his discoveries made therewith"
1955 Willis Eugene Lamb United States "for his discoveries concerning the fine structure of the hydrogen spectrum". See Lamb shift.
Polykarp Kusch United States "for his precision determination of the magnetic moment of the electron"
1956 William Bradford Shockley
John Bardeen
Walter Houser Brattain
United States "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect"
1957 Chen Ning Yang (楊振寧)
Tsung-Dao Lee (李政道)
People's Republic of China
United States
"for their penetrating investigation of the so-called parity laws which has led to important discoveries regarding the elementary particles"
1958 Pavel Alekseyevich Čerenkov
Il'ya Frank
Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm
Soviet Union "for the discovery and the interpretation of the Cherenkov-Vavilov effect"
1959 Emilio Gino Segrè
Owen Chamberlain
United States "for their discovery of the antiproton"
1960 Donald Arthur Glaser United States "for the invention of the bubble chamber"
1961 Robert Hofstadter United States "for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his thereby achieved discoveries concerning the structure of the nucleons"
Rudolf Ludwig Mössbauer West Germany "for his researches concerning the resonance absorption of gamma radiation and his discovery in this connection of the effect which bears his name". See Mössbauer effect.
1962 Lev Davidovich Landau Soviet Union "for his pioneering theories for condensed matter, especially liquid helium"
1963 Eugene Paul Wigner Hungary
United States
"for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles"
Maria Goeppert-Mayer
J. Hans D. Jensen
United States
West Germany
"for their discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure"
1964 Charles Hard Townes United States "for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle"
Nicolay Gennadiyevich Basov
Aleksandr Prokhorov
Soviet Union;
Australia/Soviet Union
1965 Sin-Itiro Tomonaga
Julian Schwinger
Richard Phillips Feynman
United States
United States
"for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles"
1966 Alfred Kastler France "for the discovery and development of optical methods for studying Hertzian resonances in atoms"
1967 Hans Albrecht Bethe United States "for his contributions to the theory of nuclear reactions, especially his discoveries concerning the energy production in stars"
1968 Luis Walter Alvarez United States "for his decisive contributions to elementary particle physics, in particular the discovery of a large number of resonance states, made possible through his development of the technique of using hydrogen bubble chamber and data analysis"
1969 Murray Gell-Mann United States "for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions". See Eightfold way.
1970 Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén Sweden "for fundamental work and discoveries in magneto-hydrodynamics with fruitful applications in different parts of plasma physics"
Louis Eugene Félix Néel France "for fundamental work and discoveries concerning antiferromagnetism and ferrimagnetism which have led to important applications in solid state physics"
1971 Dennis Gabor United Kingdom "for his invention and development of the holographic method"
1972 John Bardeen
Leon Neil Cooper
John Robert Schrieffer
United States "for their jointly developed theory of superconductivity, usually called the BCS-theory"
1973 Leo Esaki
Ivar Giaever
Norway/United States
"for their experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors, respectively"
Brian David Josephson United Kingdom "for his theoretical predictions of the properties of a supercurrent through a tunnel barrier, in particular those phenomena which are generally known as the Josephson effect"
1974 Martin Ryle
Antony Hewish
United Kingdom "for their pioneering research in radio astrophysics: Ryle for his observations and inventions, in particular of the aperture synthesis technique, and Hewish for his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars"
1975 Aage Niels Bohr
Ben Roy Mottelson
Leo James Rainwater
United States
"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"
1976 Burton Richter
Samuel Chao Chung Ting
United States "for their pioneering work in the discovery of a heavy elementary particle of a new kind". In other words: for discovery of the J/Ψ particle as it confirmed the idea that baryonic matter (such as the nuclei of atoms) is made out of quarks.
1977 Philip Warren Anderson
Nevill Francis Mott
John Hasbrouck van Vleck
United States
United Kingdom
United States
"for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems"
1978 Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa Soviet Union "for his basic inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics"
Arno Allan Penzias
Robert Woodrow Wilson
United States
United States
"for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation"
1979 Sheldon Lee Glashow
Abdus Salam
Steven Weinberg
United States
United States
"for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current"
1980 James Watson Cronin
Val Logsdon Fitch
United States "for the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of neutral K-mesons". See CP-violation.
1981 Nicolaas Bloembergen
Arthur Leonard Schawlow
United States
United States
"for their contribution to the development of laser spectroscopy"
Kai Manne Börje Siegbahn Sweden "for his contribution to the development of high-resolution electron spectroscopy"
1982 Kenneth G. Wilson United States "for his theory for critical phenomena in connection with phase transitions"
1983 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar India
United States
"for his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars". See Chandrasekhar limit.
William Alfred Fowler United States "for his theoretical and experimental studies of the nuclear reactions of importance in the formation of the chemical elements in the universe"
1984 Carlo Rubbia
Simon van der Meer
"for their decisive contributions to the large project, which led to the discovery of the field particles W and Z, communicators of weak interaction"
1985 Klaus von Klitzing West Germany "for the discovery of the quantized Hall effect"
1986 Ernst Ruska West Germany "for his fundamental work in electron optics, and for the design of the first electron microscope"
Gerd Binnig
Heinrich Rohrer
West Germany
"for their design of the scanning tunneling microscope"
1987 Johannes Georg Bednorz
Karl Alexander Müller
West Germany
"for their important break-through in the discovery of superconductivity in ceramic materials"
1988 Leon Max Lederman
Melvin Schwartz
Jack Steinberger
United States "for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino"
1989 Norman Foster Ramsey United States "for the invention of the separated oscillatory fields method and its use in the hydrogen maser and other atomic clocks"
Hans Georg Dehmelt
Wolfgang Paul
United States
West Germany
"for the development of the ion trap technique"
1990 Jerome I. Friedman
Henry Way Kendall
Richard E. Taylor
United States
United States
"for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics"
1991 Pierre-Gilles de Gennes France "for discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers"
1992 Georges Charpak France "for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber"
1993 Russell Alan Hulse
Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr.
United States "for the discovery of a new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation"
1994 Bertram Brockhouse Canada "for the development of neutron spectroscopy" and "for pioneering contributions to the development of neutron scattering techniques for studies of condensed matter"
Clifford Glenwood Shull United States "for the development of the neutron diffraction technique" and "for pioneering contributions to the development of neutron scattering techniques for studies of condensed matter"
1995 Martin Lewis Perl United States "for the discovery of the tau lepton" and "for pioneering experimental contributions to lepton physics"
Frederick Reines United States "for the detection of the neutrino" and "for pioneering experimental contributions to lepton physics"
1996 David Morris Lee
Douglas D. Osheroff
Robert Coleman Richardson
United States "for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3"
1997 Steven Chu
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji
William Daniel Phillips
United States
United States
"for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light" See Laser cooling.
1998 Robert B. Laughlin
Horst Ludwig Störmer
Daniel Chee Tsui
United States
United States
"for their discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations". See Quantum Hall effect.
1999 Gerardus 't Hooft
Martinus J.G. Veltman
Netherlands "for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics"
2000 Zhores Ivanovich Alferov
Herbert Kroemer
"for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and optoelectronics"
Jack St. Clair Kilby United States "for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit"
2001 Eric Allin Cornell
Wolfgang Ketterle
Carl Edwin Wieman
United States
United States
"for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates"
2002 Raymond Davis Jr.
Masatoshi Koshiba
United States
"for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos"
Riccardo Giacconi United States "for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources"
2003 Alexei Alexeevich Abrikosov
Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg
Anthony James Leggett
United Kingdom
"for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids"
2004 David J. Gross
H. David Politzer
Frank Wilczek
United States "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction"
2005 Roy J. Glauber United States "for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence"
John L. Hall
Theodor W. Hänsch
United States
"for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique"
2006 John C. Mather
George F. Smoot
United States "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation"
2007 Albert Fert
Peter Grünberg
"for the discovery of giant magnetoresistance"


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "What the Nobel Laureates Receive", accessed November 1, 2007.
  2. "The Nobel Prize Selection Process", Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed November 5, 2007 (Flowchart).
  3. Birgitta Lemmel,"The Nobel Prize Medals and the Medal for the Prize in Economics",, 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).
  4. 4.0 4.1 "The Nobel Prize Ceremonies",, accessed November 1, 2007.
  5. "All Nobel Laureates in Physics", Nobel Foundation, accessed November 5, 2007. All of the Nobel "citations" provided in the chart are quoted from the official site of the Nobel Foundation.

Other references

See also

External links

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