Programming Note: Nobel Predictions Video Roundtable

October 2nd, 2013

ChemBark MedallionHello friends.

I’ll be participating in a video roundtable discussion tomorrow/today (Thursday) at 3 PM Eastern US time. The discussion will focus on Nobel Prize predictions and general thoughts. The event is being hosted by reporters Carmen Drahl and Lauren Wolf at C&EN, with me, Neil Withers (Chemistry World), and Simon Frantz (BBC Future, formerly as guests.

There’s more info here, including a link to the broadcast. Tune in and see why I normally stick to writing: I’m ugly and have a horrible nasal voice.

It’s going to be grand!

Edit to add: Here’s the video from the session:

6 Responses to “Programming Note: Nobel Predictions Video Roundtable”

  1. David Andrews Says:

    Whitesides, dammit!

  2. wolfie Says:

    Am I not among the candidates ?

    Why not ?

  3. wolfie Says:

    After some thoughts, I come to the following conclusion : Because I never was a Harvard student.

  4. Bob Sacamano Says:

    Dear Paul,
    Thanks to you and the rest of the panel for providing an interesting discussion.

    During the brief discussion of scientists who have been passed over for ‘obvious’ prize-worthy research, you said: ‘G.N. Lewis was completely screwed out of the prize for deuterium in 1934.’

    I’ll respectfully disagree with this contention. Lewis probably felt screwed about the 1934 prize. He resigned from the NAS six weeks after the 1934 chemistry prize to Urey was announced, and some suspect he took his own life in 1946 because of multiple Nobel disappointments. But there’s a big difference between feeling screwed and being screwed, and it is pretty clear that he did not merit the 1934 call.

    Patrick Coffey’s Cathedrals of Science (OUP, 2008) examines this question with an interview of Jacob Bigeleisen, one of Lewis’ last graduate students and himself a towering figure in isotope research. A former student might be inclined to reflect sunshine towards a former boss, but Bigeleisen calls it objectively:

    [If the 1934 Nobel Prize was to be awarded for the discovery of deuterium, the record is clear—it goes and went to Urey…Lewis jumped on the bandwagon. He had a large supply of enriched water from the electrolytic cells from which Giauque generated hydrogen gas for liquefaction. Should the scope of the prize have been enlarged to include work beyond the discovery {of deuterium}, Lewis would not have been the only one to consider. Of course there was the work by Urey beyond the discovery. There was a legion of people who published on the properties of deuterium by 1934. What was unique about Lewis was he published 26 papers in one year! But he did this because he had a supply based upon the work of Washburn and Urey and he enlisted the ‘collaboration’ of everyone in the {Berkeley chemistry} department who could make measurements relative to the difference between protium and deuterium.

    In my view, Lewis did not warrant a share of the 1934 Nobel Prize even if {the subject of the award were} more broadly defined than the discovery of a heavy isotope of hydrogen.] [2005 interview of Bigeleisen, entries in curly brackets are from Coffey]

    Of course, Lewis was nominated for the Nobel multiple times for pioneering studies in very different areas of chemistry. The reasons why he never received the prize appear to be a muddled mix of Nobel committee spite and a lack of understanding of the things he was doing. This would constitute a real screwing over, and you may want to use one of these cases as your working example.

    But as far as his work with the mass-2 isotope goes, I’m sticking with Jake’s historical assessment as a prize done right. I hope you will give it consideration as well.


  5. Paul Bracher Says:

    @Bob: I see the argument, and on second thought, I’d like to walk back my comment of a “complete” screwing. But I still believe it constitutes a screwing. In my mind, excluding Lewis in 1934 would be like excluding Tsien from the 2008 prize. While Tsien didn’t make the discovery of GFP—nor did do the original GFP-as-a-biological-tracer studies—his early work was critical to the field. (Of course, it would have been nice for Prasher to have been recognized for his pioneering work, too.)

    The deuterium exclusion of Lewis was made all the more snubby by the Nobel committee’s snubs of all Lewis’s previous phenomenal work. (I ranked Lewis as the second greatest chemist of all-time and I’m not so sure he doesn’t deserve #1.)

  6. KSH Says:

    I agter with Paul on Carl Djerassi deserving an award. Probably won’t happening though :(

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