The math behind the “Nobel”

about 1 year ago
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The Nobel Awards were announced recently. It is usually scheduled in the first week of October every year. The prizes are for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. There is no award for math. No mathematician, however great his invention, can never get a Nobel as this stream is simply not recognized.

There are several interesting theories which explain math is not given the recognition by Nobel. Some say that Alfred Nobel, the scientist who invested dynamite, with over 300 patents in his name, never liked Math. He found it too theoretical, with no practical implementation and thus did not want to include Math. It could also be because Nobel himself loved chemistry and physics and all his work was in this field; he loved reading thus literature and when he was rising, so was medicine. Also some say that he incorporated peace because his public image had taken a beating due to his dynamite invention. For dynamite, he was called as the “merchant of death”

Also at that time, there was already a math award given. The King of Norway and Sweden, King Oscar II was himself a mathematician and he established a prestigious math award for mathematical contributions. Nobel may have thought there was no need to duplicate an established award of his own.

Of course there is another interesting theory that his partner cheated on him with mathematician Gosta Mittag-Leffler, who founded the leading mathematical journal Acta Mathematica and persuaded King Oscar II to create the math award. This probably made him exclude math because he did not want the award and the money to go to a man he disliked.

Whatever be the theory, it is so interesting to merely understand why certain fields and certain not. The award was indeed such a “personal” thing to Nobel! Actually, all awards are.


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