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The Nobel Prize in Physics
Awarded for Outstanding contributions in Physics
Presented by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Country Sweden
First awarded 1901
Official Website
Wilhelm Röntgen (1845 – 1923) was the first person to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics, for his discovery of x-rays.

The Nobel Prize in Physics (Swedish: Nobelpriset i fysik) is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in chemistry, Nobel Prize in literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The first Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a German, "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays (or x-rays)." This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation and widely regarded as the most prestigious award that a scientist can receive in physics. It is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.


Nomination and selection

A maximum of three Nobel Laureates and two different works may be selected for the Nobel Prize in Physics.[1] Compared with some other Nobel Prizes, the nomination and selection process for the Nobel Prize in Physics is long and rigorous. This is a key reason why these Nobel Prizes have grown in importance over the years to become the most important prizes in Physics.[2]

These Nobel Laureates are selected by a Nobel Committee that consists of five members elected by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In its first stage, several thousand people are asked to nominate candidates. These names are scrutinized and discussed by experts until only the winners remain.

Forms, which amount to a personal and exclusive invitation, are sent to about three thousand selected individuals to invite them to submit nominations. The names of the nominees are never publicly announced, and neither are they told that they have been considered for the Prize. Nomination records are sealed for fifty years. In practice some nominees do become known. It is also common for publicists to make such a claim, founded or not.

The nominations are screened by committee, and a list is produced of approximately two hundred preliminary candidates. This list is forwarded to selected experts in the field. They remove all but approximately fifteen names. The committee submits a report with recommendations to the appropriate institution.

While posthumous nominations are not permitted, awards can occur if the individual died in the months between the decision of the prize committee (typically in October) and the ceremony in December. Prior to 1974, posthumous awards were permitted if the recipient had died after being nominated. [3]

The Nobel Prize in Physics requires that the significance of achievements being recognized is "tested by time." In practice it means that the lag between the discovery and the award is typically on the order of 20 years and can be much longer. For example, half of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar for his work on stellar structure and evolution that was done during the 1930s. As a downside of this approach, not all scientists live long enough for their work to be recognized. Some important scientific discoveries are never considered for a Prize, as the discoverers may have died by the time the impact of their work is realized[4][5][6].

The Award

The Nobel Prize medallion.

The Nobel Prize in Physics consists of a gold medallion (the Nobel Prize Medal for Physics), a diploma, and a monetary grant.[1] The Nobel Prize Medals, which have been minted in Sweden since 1902, are registered trademarks of the Nobel Foundation. Their engraved designs are internationally-recognized symbols of the prestige of the Nobel Prize.

The front side (obverse) of the Nobel Prize Medals for Physics, Chemistry, Literature, and Physiology or Medicine (for the "Swedish Prizes") features the same engraved profile of Alfred Nobel with his name abbreviated as "Alfr. Nobel" to the left of his profile and the dates of his birth and death to the right of it (in capital letters and Roman numerals).[1]

The reverse side of the medals for Physics and Chemistry is "The medal of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences," which "represents Nature in the form of a goddess resembling Isis, emerging from the clouds and holding in her arms a cornucopia. The veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science".[7]

Since 2001 the grant has been 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1.4M, €1.0M, or £800k as of August 2009).[8]

The Nobel Award Ceremony

The committee and institution serving as the selection board for the prize typically announce the names of the laureates in October. The prize is then awarded at formal ceremonies held annually on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death. "The highlight of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is when each Nobel Laureate steps forward to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King of Sweden. ... Under the eyes of a watching world, the Nobel Laureate receives three things: a diploma, a medal and a document confirming the prize amount" ("What the Nobel Laureates Receive").

The Nobel Banquet is the banquet that is held every year in Stockholm City Hall in connection with the Nobel Prize.[8]


See also



External links



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