Nobel Prize in Physics

Article

October 20, 2021

The Nobel Prize in Physics (Swedish: Nobelpriset i fysik), established by Alfred Nobel's will of 1895, is awarded annually, generally in the fourth quarter of the year, by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Awarded for the first time in 1901, like the other prizes established by Nobel himself, the prize consists of a sum of money (eight million SEK in 2013), a personalized diploma for each winner and a gold medal bearing the effigy of Alfred Nobel. The first winner was physicist Wilhelm Röntgen for the discovery of X-rays. Only four women won the award: Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963, Donna Strickland in 2018 and Andrea Ghez in 2020. It was not awarded in six occasions (1916, 1931, 1934, 1940, 1941 and 1942). For ten years he was endowed with ten million Swedish kronor, just over one million euros. However, in June 2012, the Nobel Foundation decided that the award winners would receive a 20% lower bonus than what their predecessors paid. The reason for this downward revision "is a necessary measure to avoid jeopardizing the capital of the foundation that finances the long-term premiums" given the financial crisis. The amount of the allocation amounts to SEK 8 million (or approximately € 920,948.12 in 2012).

Context

Alfred Nobel, in his will, stated that his wealth would be used to create a series of awards for those who bring "the greatest benefit to mankind" in the fields of physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature. Although Nobel had written many wills over the course of his life, the last one was written a year before his death and was signed in Paris on November 27, 1895. Nobel bequeathed 94% of his assets, 31 million Swedish crowns ( in 2016 equivalent to 198 million dollars, 176 million euros), to establish and assign the five Awards. Due to skepticism regarding the will, it was not approved by the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament) until April 26, 1897. The executors were Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, who formed the Nobel Foundation to look after the Nobel estate and organize the prizes. The members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who should have awarded the Peace Prize were appointed shortly after the approval of the will. The other organizations to deliver the awards followed: the Karolinska Institute on June 7, the Swedish Academy on June 9, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on June 11. The Nobel Foundation has reached agreement on guidelines for awarding Nobel Prizes. In 1900, the new statutes of the Nobel Foundation were promulgated by King Oscar II. According to Nobel's will, the Physics Prize would be awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Designation of the winners

According to Alfred Nobel's will, the prize must be rewarded. The Nobel wanted it to be awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, as for the chemistry prize. The Academy delegates the study of the nominations to the Nobel Committee, which depends on the Nobel Foundation, determining the specificity of each of the branches to be awarded. There are five committee members. They are appointed by co-optation from among the members of the Royal Academy for a period of three years. They rely on various figures of authority to establish their positions: recognized physicists, circles of eminent university professors, associations of researchers, former awardees, directors of important national or international scientific research centers, etc. of the committee are sent in the fall to be reciprocated for the choice of the winner of the following year. It is forbidden for each of the persons solicited to vote for themselves. Several hundred annual proposals, necessarily argued

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