The number of years that a physicist or chemist waits between the completion of breakthrough research and recognition for that work by the Nobel Committee has been averaging about a dozen years since 1945. This year’s physics prize, however, was awarded for an experiment performed some 26 years ago, while the chemistry prize came for discoveries attained rather recently—between 1982 and 1985.

The physics prize was jointly awarded to three Americans: Leon M. Lederman, 66, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, 111.; Jack Steinberger, 67, CERN in Geneva; and Melvin Schwartz, 56, Digital Pathways Inc. in Mountain View, Calif. Their work took place in 1962 at the Brookhaven National Accelerator Laboratory in Upton, Long Island, N.Y There Lederman, Steinberger, and Schwartz led a team of scientists in a landmark experiment that, in the words of the Nobel Committee’s statement, “opened entirely new opportunities for research into the...

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