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Nobel Prize for Mathematics?

  1. Oct 6, 2004 #1
    When will mathematics and mathematicians get the credit to them that is due? Before a physicist can do their work, a mathematician had to invent the mathematics to do physics. Computer science relies heavily on mathematics. Economics was added in the late 60's so why doesn't the Nobel commitee add a category for mathematics? Sure we have the Fields medal which is very prestigious, but that is only every 4 years and discriminates agaisnt anyone over 40 yrs. old.
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  3. Oct 7, 2004 #2
    if only.

    Nobody else cares about mathematicians though, and besides, what would they do with the prize money?

  4. Oct 7, 2004 #3
    There's the Abel Prize.
  5. Oct 7, 2004 #4
    Fields Medal
  6. Oct 7, 2004 #5
    I was always under the impression that there was a mathematics category. Seems you proved me wrong.
  7. Oct 8, 2004 #6
    Maybe it's becouse mathematics in it's purest form probibly isn't useful enough.
  8. Oct 8, 2004 #7
    Our math teacher told us it's because Mr. Nobel's wife once cheated on him with a mathematician. :biggrin: Therefore...well, you can figure out the rest. I don't know if you knew the story (I don't know if it's true either).

    Moral: Even the noblest man is just a man :wink:
  9. Oct 8, 2004 #8
    If I use that logic, then what good is Literature? There is a nobel prize for literature, but really how does it help people?
  10. Oct 8, 2004 #9


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    A somewhat more correct story is that Nobel and a mathematics professor were courting the same woman, who married the mathematician. There is no reason to think that is why Nobel never established a prize for mathematics. It is much more likely that mathematics was too "abstract". Even the prize for physics is given for very specific, often experimental work. When Einstein was given the Nobel prize in physics, it was, at least technically, for his work on Brownian motion- no mention was made of relativity.
  11. Oct 8, 2004 #10


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    So you might think at the time. But sometimes even the purest, most abstract, apparently useless mathematics can have a profound impact on our lives:

    "The theory of Numbers has always been regarded as one of the most obviously useless branches of Pure Mathematics. The accusation is one against which there is no valid defence; and it is never more just than when directed against the parts of the theory which are more particularly concerned with primes. A science is said to be useful if its development tends to accentuate the existing inequalities in the distribution of wealth, or more directly promotes the destruction of human life. The theory of prime numbers satisfies no such criteria. Those who pursue it will, if they are wise, make no attempt to justify their interest in a subject so trivial and so remote, and will console themselves with the thought that the greatest mathematicians of all ages have found it in it a mysterious attraction impossible to resist."

    -G.H. Hardy

    How wrong he turned out to be!

    No nobel prize, but we do have the financially rewarding prizes from the Clay Institute.
  12. Oct 8, 2004 #11


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    Actually, I believe it was brownian motion and the photo-electric effect, and really, Einstein's work on the photo-electric effect has had huge implications since it's essentially the first of a number of LASER nobel prizes.
  13. Oct 8, 2004 #12
    because Mr. Nobels wife ran off with a mathematitian, thats why there is no Nobel prize for Math
  14. Oct 9, 2004 #13
    i think there's a story of an astonomer running off with nobel's wife, which is why there isn't a nobel prize in astronomy. i think those are just stories though, and nobel simply wasn't interested in math, and there's nothing more to it.

    i've read that hardy was very proud of the fact that he had never done anything "useful"... that's a good quote; is it from his autobiography?
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2004
  15. Oct 10, 2004 #14
    1) The prize is given for work that is considered to be "a great advancement for mankind." How there can be a prize for literature makes no sense to me at least. However in the case of Mathematics it does make sense. Mathematicians have won nobel prizes--however this was as a result of the application of their work--e.g, John Nash won the Nobel Prize for economics, for his mathematics PhD thesis.

    2)Eintstein did win it for his theory of the photo-electric effect, not relativity.

    3)The earlier Nobel prizes in physics were more theoretical, but they all centered on quantum theory (as far as i can think of). Recently they have all become more centered on experimental work.
  16. Oct 10, 2004 #15
    How unlikely is it that they will add a math category in the future? Economics was added after Nobel died wasn't it?

  17. Oct 10, 2004 #16


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    There's a new math prize that workes more like the Nobel - prizes every year and for work without a time frame. I forget its name.

    The Fields medal has a complicated system only a mathematician could love. It's only awarded every four years when the international mathematical congress is held. But they award four at a time, so it averages. The Fields medals are given for recent work and I think there's an age limit too, so the older mathematicans don't have the hope that sustained Wilczek, Gross, and Pollitser.
  18. Oct 10, 2004 #17


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    As has been said, a new math prize, the Abel Award, will be given out each year.
    The prize level is about a million dollars, I think; the first to receive it, was Atiyah&Singer(?) for the index theorem.
  19. Oct 10, 2004 #18
    Ohhh! Nobel was a guy with very bad luck then. A mathematician and an astronomer. I wonder that the fact that there's no Nobel prize for architecture is because her wife ran away with an architect :surprised
  20. Oct 10, 2004 #19
    i don't know whether that's true or not, but an astronomy student definitely said in class that there's a story about nobel's wife running off with an astronomer
  21. Oct 11, 2004 #20

    There is an age limit, because the medal is meant to honor those who have made great achievements, and have the potential to make further achievements.

    Economics was added in the 1960s, long after the death of Nobel. But it still doesn't seem likely that a Mathematics category will be added, becuase the prize is meant to honor those who have greatly advanced mankind with their work, ergo, and this has been the case, any mathemtician that would win would ahve to win for the application of their work. This would then fall under the category of the realm of application, say physics, economics, etc., which is how mathematicians have won prizes in the past. There would not be a logical reason for a purely mathmetical "discovery" to be awarded a prize, until it was shown to have significantly advanced mankind, which means it would ahve been applied, but the advancement of mankind then occured in the are of application, not in the realm of mathematics. This is why there is not, and probably never will be, a nobel prize for mathematics.
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