Did the Nobel Prize Ever Reward Controversial Achievements?

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Frabjous
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Einstein was awarded the Nobel prize
"for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect"
which is a bit of a waffle.

Does anyone know of any instances where the award could be considered “brave”?
 
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There is more than one form of bravery.
The addition of nitroglycerine to kieselgur, by one young Alfred, was brave.

The committee is not required to make a fast decision.
The granting of an earlier Darwin award, can simplify the problem.
 
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  • #4
Frabjous said:
Einstein was awarded the Nobel prize
"for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect"
which is a bit of a waffle.

Does anyone know of any instances where the award could be considered “brave”?
It is important to keep in mind that Einstein's Nobel Prize was specifically linked to his work on the photoelectric effect (as was stated in the award), which while important, was still based on a continuation of existing work in statistical mechanics at the time. So I'm not certain that awarding the Nobel to Einstein for this could be considered "brave".

What would have been braver would have been granting the Nobel to Einstein specifically for his work on the theory of relativity, which when he had formulated it was still controversial within physics, until the specific predictions were experimentally verified.
 
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StatGuy2000 said:
It is important to keep in mind that Einstein's Nobel Prize was specifically linked to his work on the photoelectric effect (as was stated in the award), which while important, was still based on a continuation of existing work in statistical mechanics at the time. So I'm not certain that awarding the Nobel to Einstein for this could be considered "brave".

What would have been braver would have been granting the Nobel to Einstein specifically for his work on the theory of relativity, which when he had formulated it was still controversial within physics, until the specific predictions were experimentally verified.
Waffling is not bravery.
 
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  • #6
Frabjous said:
Waffling is not bravery.
Can you expand on why you are using that term? My understanding of the term "waffling" does not seem to fit the context or the particular Nobel prize that you have referenced. Thank you.
 
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berkeman said:
Can you expand on why you are using that term? My understanding of the term "waffling" does not seem to fit the context or the particular Nobel prize that you have referenced. Thank you.
They had to give the Einstein the prize, but they gave it for for his least controversial, not greatest, accomplishment.
 
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What other accomplishments of his were on the table for a prize at that time? Were they proven yet? I'm no expert on the Nobel prize selection process, but I'm pretty sure that new theoretical developments have to be proven pretty conclusively before they are eligible.
 
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berkeman said:
What other accomplishments of his were on the table for a prize at that time? Were they proven yet? I'm no expert on the Nobel prize selection process, but I'm pretty sure that new theoretical developments have to be proven pretty conclusively before they are eligible.
Eddington‘s measurements were in 1919. There was already Mercury‘s orbit. The Nobel was in 1921. Einstein lived until 1955.
 
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  • #11
I do not know if this counts, still waiting for a definition of brave, but Fermi Nobel prize is weird. He won it for discovering heavy new elements. But what he discovered was the opposite, he just found light fission products. Also he won the prize in 1938, but it did not mention his theoretical work: Fermi-Dirac statistics, Thomas-Fermi screening, Fermi theory of beta decay, Fermi contact, and more.

A similar thing happened with Lord Rayleigh, he won the Nobel in Physics for "discovery of argon?" that's suspiciously chemistry. Also tons and tons on late 19th century theoretical developments in physics, are due to him.

Curie could be seen as brave in a sense also. She was supposedly not considered to nomination (probably for being a woman), but Pierre Curie insisted it had to be mutual.

As for amazingly quick, Bednorz and Müller got it a year after their discovery.

In the opposite of brave you have Ginzburg (or Davis) who won in 2003 (2002) at the age of 87 (88) for something he did in the 50s (60s)
 
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pines-demon said:
still waiting for a definition of brave
Doing the right thing when it would be easier not doing it.
 
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  • #13
Frabjous said:
Does anyone know of any instances where the award could be considered “brave”?
Brave by the awards committee, or brave by the recipient?
 
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Baluncore said:
Brave by the awards committee, or brave by the recipient?
I was thinking of the awards committee, but the recipient would also be interesting.
 
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Frabjous said:
Doing the right thing when it would be easier not doing it.

I was thinking of the awards committee, but the recipient would also be interesting.
Then I think I gave some examples already. Giving a prize to Bednorz and Müller for high Tc superconductors after just one year of their discovery is very bold (compared with prizes like that of Ginzburg who had to wait 50 years for something that was very well understood). Also in one year somebody could have falsified their discovery or found a room temperature Tc seeing how rapid the developments were.

Edit: The most recent case is probably Pierre Agostini, when Paul Corkum was the easy choice. L'Huillier and Krauzs had already won all possible physics awards with Corkum (who did the theory), and Agostini was mostly in obscurity (even if he made the first experimental breakthrough).

Edit2: Maybe giving a second Nobel prize to Bardeen might seem bold also when so many others could have gotten a second one.
 
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  • #16
Frabjous said:
Doing the right thing when it would be easier not doing it.
You mean like when I had to wash my dinner dishes last night? Saving trees by not using paper plates!
I think I'm going to be very, very, brave today too, I've got stuff to do.
 
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  • #17
When the 1909 Nobel prize for physics was awarded to two businessmen, Guglielmo Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Braun, it provided the two biggest world naval powers with radio communication. Neither discovered anything new, they just stole other people's inventions, for commercial advantage. The Bofors company was then owned by the Nobel family.
What followed in 1914-1918 did wonders for the share price of Nobel Industries.
 

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