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5 Great Scientists Who Never Won A Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prizes can be as controversial as they are prestigious. It’s very uncommon for a scientist to make a discovery entirely on his or her own: Researchers collaborate, compete, and construct new theories based on the work of others. Inevitably, choosing just up to three living scientists to take credit for a pivotal find means some researchers are, arguably, unfairly left out of the spotlight. Some Nobel snubs were the product of personal grudges or general biases, particularly against women scientists. Others were matters of bad timing; Rosalind Franklin, whose work was essential to the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, died four years before James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared a Nobel in 1962—and the Nobels are almost never awarded posthumously. Here are the stories of a few scientists who contributed significantly to our understanding of the world, but who unfortunately never won top honors in Sweden.

Annie Jump Cannon
Accomplishment: Classifying the stars

Cannon was an American astronomer hired by Edward Pickering, along with other women (collectively referred to as “Pickering’s Harem”), to work at the Harvard Observatory mapping and classifying every star in the sky. Without these women, whom he called “computers,” Pickering could not have catalogued all those stars.

Cannon was arguably the most accomplished of Pickering’s computers. During her career she observed and classified over 200,000 stars. But more importantly, she devised a star classification system to categorize stars based on spectral absorption lines. Though her contributions were not recognized during her forty-year astronomy career, her work lives on in the mnemonic device “Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me!” which helps astronomy students remember star types in order of decreasing temperature.

Gilbert Newton Lewis
Accomplishment: Understanding how chemical bonding works

If you’ve ever studied chemistry, you know the work of Gilbert Newton Lewis, an American chemist. Lewis’ contributions to chemistry in the 1900s include discovering the covalent bond (where atoms share electron pairs), and explaining the nature of acids and bases as substances that accept or give away a pair of electrons, respectively. He also introduced the “Lewis dot structure,” a way of representing chemical bonds and unbonded electrons in atoms and molecules.

Much of Lewis’s research laid the groundwork for our understanding of chemical bonding, and he went on to make significant contributions in thermodynamics as well. But though he was nominated 35 times, Lewis’s criticism of his colleagues and hostile relationships with his contemporaries kept him from winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. That’s not just idle gossip: There’s historical evidence that William Palmaer, a Swedish chemist who served as a voting member of the chemistry committee from 1926 to 1942, had an agenda against Lewis. (Palmaer was close friends with Walther Nernst, a chemist that Lewis nursed a grudge against and frequently criticized).

Dimitri Mendeleev
Accomplishment: The periodic table of elements

Mendeleev was a Russian chemist and inventor, well known for his periodic law stating that the chemical properties of the elements reoccur periodically as their atomic masses increase. The famous Periodic Table he created based on this law accurately described elements yet to be discovered along with their physical and chemical properties, and was the first such table that could make these predictions. Mendeleev was nominated for the 1906 Nobel Prize in chemistry, but died in 1907 without that honor.

Carl Richard Woese
Accomplishment: Reshaping the tree of life

Woese was a molecular biologist who studied microbiology and evolution. In 1977, he published a paper that described how to use RNA from the ribosome, a cellular organelle, to identify and classify microbes. This technique, called molecular phylogeny, eventually revolutionized the study of both microbiology and evolution.

Woese’s first analysis using molecular phylogeny led to the discovery of the Archaea, a previously-unheard of third domain of life on Earth. Before Woese’s discovery, life was classified into Five Kingdoms stemming from two major branches: prokaryotes, containing bacteria, and eukaryotes, comprising animals, plants, fungi and protists. The only difference between these branches was the presence (eukaryotes) or absence (prokaryotes) of a membrane-bound cell nucleus. Microorganisms in Archaea do not have a nucleus, but have their own characteristic membranes, enzymes, and ribosomes. Most Archaea are extremophiles, residing in environments that most organisms would find intolerable: hot springs, volcanic vents, or extremely salty places. Yet despite the fact that Woese literally reshaped the tree of life, he never received a Nobel for his pivotal work.

Chien-Shiung Wu
Accomplishment: Proving the “handedness” of nature

In 1956 Wu conducted a nuclear physics experiment that disproved a widely accepted law of physics: the “Parity Law,” which says that physical systems or objects that are mirror images of each other should behave in an identical way—essentially, that fundamental laws of physics do not distinguish between left and right.

While the law of parity does apply to the forces of electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong nuclear force, two other physicists Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang thought that this would not be true for the weak nuclear force. To prove this, Wu—enlisted by Lee, a colleague at Columbia University, where she was an associate professor at the time—studied the decay of supercooled atoms of the radioactive isotope cobalt-60 exposed to a strong magnetic field. If the law of parity held true for the weak nuclear force that governs beta decay, the cobalt isotopes should have emitted equal numbers of electrons in both directions. But Wu saw that as the cobalt-60 decayed, electrons tended to fly off in a direction opposite from the spin of the cobalt nuclei; the law did not hold.

Wu’s work was later replicated, and became proof positive of parity violation. The 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Lee and Yang for disproving parity violation, but Wu was overlooked. Still, she is often remembered as “The First Lady of Physics.”

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10 comments
Hari Navangul
Hari Navangul

COSMOS CARRIER The universe is the cosmos carrier for all objects as passengers with harmonious waves as energizer. The universe age is beyond imagination. Something has to exist for the startup. A big bang theory put forward the existence or the beginning of the universe. It looks that a big bang alone may not be sole cause for such an infinite universe and the reasoning takes us to rest on series of bangs and recycle thereof for such a sprawling activity. But the starting point as the birthdate of the universe from this zero point does raise doubts that for sourcing of the big bang or bangs needs something with chain of operations earlier for which some period must have been needed, which accountability is a guess for intelligence. So the birthdate resting at any point of presumed zero is not the net zero because of the earlier setup scenario. Looking to the continuity of universal action since times immemorial, the universe is infinite in age rather immortal without reasoning. How space emerged? The answer is it existed and that is all which is the secret of the nature of living and nonliving with entry-exit and vice versa. Space and time go together for action and reaction. Space surrounds everything but time is pure abstract, an accounting tool. Discovery of zero is a miracle. It results astonishingly. Zero plus or zero minus has zero effect and the number remains intact i.e. 4 + 0 = 4, 4-0= 4. But zero in multiplication by any figure nullifies the number value. This is mathematics. When zero stands at nothing, it is not so to determine the universal age from the assumed zero point as it is not net zero. Some interesting mathematical indicators spring surprises. Square of 1 is 1, of 2 is 4, whereas 1+1=2, 2+2=4 which disturbs the accounting base that square of any figure is more than the addition. Thus in energy equation E=mc2, if ‘c’ is 1, square of 1 is 1 in calculation mode but the actual output is not so and would be more than that. Hence any unknown elements get covered by algebra in terms of an alphabet, to be solved later. Thus there seems to be no fixed beginning and exit for the universe. Both are beyond guess due to energy cycle and recycle. Energy can be converted but not destroyed and created as per the finding. This is however not applied to the nature where energy is generated and added too by action –reaction In terms of cycle and recycle. Touching the segregation of living and nonliving it looks like our assumption. In both in and out are the stages but it happens to be the other way also by natural changeover. Everything is nature and assimilates within. Living has the mass and soul energy whereas nonliving carries mass. It may be studied differently. Activation by itself is in the living. Nonliving needs to be activated. External activation in any form for living or nonliving is by objects-mass. Activation by the nature brings in seasons or other fluctuations depending upon energy impact of objects with varying characteristics. How rotations with energy emissions of objects on a systematic, calculated fashion occur? This is certainly not a random happening but well designed and accounted depending upon different immeasurable elements of objects. Even the tiny creature possesses body structure with thinking process, then objects may have same living factor. Such a scene cannot be overlooked. May be some special soul energy exists in infinite stars, planets, galaxies to be on the move on harmonious notes 2 with contraction and expansion of space to maintain safety. As objects rotate, the entire universe with space rotates as it is bound by balancing strings or conveyor belts. These special strings are invisible providing safety, contraction and expansion bearing total energy capsule of gravitation and ant gravitation, electromagnetism and other related factors known or unknown. The special strings are the threads of the universal setup. Ageing of everything is the key for creation. In short all objects do bear soul energy speciality. The nature takes classic care of the universe of which the mother earth is a part. To respect the nature the resources offered can be used by innovative process. Beyond needs the natural elements are present. For example the sunray exceeds the energy requirement of the humanity (about 70 per cent); the value may be variable with weather changes due to the earth’s geometrical positioning to the sun. Atomic sub particles are intelligent frames. Even the perfect vacuum is occupied by particles. Taking the natural feed into account, climatic conditions wave atomic sub particles can be assembled into tiny chips for domestic and industrial applications to create conducive weather atmosphere and energy transfer in multiplied chain reaction format. The example is of energy input chip in mobiles capable of wonderful demonstration. The environment can be kept clean and natural crisis can be combated by energy transfer through relevant atomic sub particles in the desired frames like chips. Energy producer battery chips can activate the relevant atomic sub particles. Pollution free earth will greatly help to maintain safe, healthy life. In fact the right description of the clean environment would be Dr. Pollution Free Caretaker. For this purpose it is essential not to spread anything unwanted on the earth surface. Segregation, disintegration at micro methods and proper placement of waste disposal is necessary without causing harm to life. Incineration of waste disposal in selected categories after taking due caution in order not to cause air pollution should be in position. This alert view would help in adding up natural resources in sectors of agriculture and minerals. Perhaps the natural recycling would carry additional value. Research towards the’ hi-tech expertise’ for waste disposal is the prime necessity. Life is light which is promised by the infinite care by the universe. So the environment care is important. The universe is the cosmos carrier with classic care round the clock which needs our understanding also. H V Navangul Age 81

Vikas Bikash Byapari
Vikas Bikash Byapari

Heartfelt salute. All successes to creator first with our thoughts Because, god brings among our best by our best to be thinking even. Who we knew about own self among us to be sniffed our good smells or to be thinking even? Everyone can say thanks to be liked.

Charley Edelman
Charley Edelman

Lots go under the radar ..sometimes radar sucks ! Even though who helped invent it !! Jaja

Hagen Schottmueller
Hagen Schottmueller

... I think a good book on the awarding of Nobel Prizes and the work in Universities in general is "Cantor's Dilemma" from Carl Djerassi - he by the way also may have deserved the Nobel Price for inventing the anti-baby pill, which has a huge positive impact to the self-determination in our culture ...

IsotopeDigest
IsotopeDigest

Such a surprise to find Dimitri Mendeleev on this list!

Maria HM
Maria HM

That's why they r great.

Michael Barbrie
Michael Barbrie

its sad that some of the greatest of all Scientist lost out on Nobel prizes who most certainly deserved it..!

Tom Claybourn
Tom Claybourn

Woese was revolutionary, but dealing with molecular phylogenecists' endless claims is something that won't be sorted out for many years....

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