Nobel Prize winner selection concept


I knew that I never really understood how the Nobel Prizes were given out, but this year, I’ve become really confused. The following article ( … obel_x.htm ) describes some physicists who were just named the winners of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Physics. The confusing part for me is that the achievement for which they are receiving the prize occurred in 1973.

When they give these awards out, do they comb backwards through history for receipients or have I missed something? I naively thought that the accomplishment had to take place within the previous year or something like that.

Anyone understand this process?


Originally, it was supposed to be awarded for an achievement in the past year, but they don’t really follow this rule anymore. Some years there is no obvious achievement; many discoveries take years before people realize their significance; many scientific advances now are not one blazing moment like the discovery of a vaccine or the makeup of DNA, but are very small steps, taken in tandem with many other scientists, so deciding who was first or most important is more difficult. In the case of the literature prizes, looking at who they chose in the first years of the awards gives obvious proof that literature needs time to find its influence and what seems great one year will often be forgotten one hundered years later, while work neglected when first published sometimes turns out to be important; the award committee now seems to have wisely decided to wait a bit before giving anybody the lit. prize. They want to avoid the embarrassment of earlier decades, when writers like Tolstoy, Hardy, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Orwell, D.H. Lawrence, Borges, etc., were overlooked, and the prize given to writers now forgotten and of no influence.

Since the Swedes bequeathed the Volvo on the world, it’s best not to think to much on their Nobel madness.

Well, that means I will be getting mine when Im dead???

The major restriction is that the winner can’t be dead.

In the early 20th century a few people were informally disqualified either by laughing at the concept of Nobel Prizes, or by not being liked by their government. (Gandhi was not nominated for peace, because that would have offended the British government.)

There are whole categories of stuff that goes unrewarded. Philosophy (though Bertrand Russell won as “literature”), history, drama, music…

Technically, I think George Bushes junior and senior ought to win peace prizes, for their work in “reducing the standing armies” of the world. (The fine print never says it has to be their own armies!)