Science Has Partly Outgrown Nobel's Vision Of The Prizes

The pioneering contributions to lepton physics, atmospheric chemistry, and developmental biology honored by this year's Nobel Prizes were all made at least some 15 or 20 years ago. This illustrates a dilemma the Nobel committees are faced with every year in the selection of the prize winners. On the one hand, the committees have to follow, as far as possible, Nobel's intention to award the prize to those who, "during the preceding year," by their scientific achievements, have conferred the gre

Bib Lindahl
Nov 12, 1995
Lindahl The pioneering contributions to lepton physics, atmospheric chemistry, and developmental biology honored by this year's Nobel Prizes were all made at least some 15 or 20 years ago. This illustrates a dilemma the Nobel committees are faced with every year in the selection of the prize winners.

On the one hand, the committees have to follow, as far as possible, Nobel's intention to award the prize to those who, "during the preceding year," by their scientific achievements, have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. On the other hand, the committees have to make sure that the achievements have been well tested and gained acceptance in the scientific community. And, since original and wide-ranging achievements seldom win immediate acceptance, but more often are met with resistance, these two criteria-recency and acceptance through corroboration-tend to clash. It may, of course, also take a considerable time before it is possible to determine the...

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