The Nobel Prizes: celebrating science every October

October 17, 2014 | Carolyn

Comments (0)


The Nobel Prize for Physiology awarded to Frederick Banting in 1923. From the collection of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.
Nobel Prize for Physiology awarded to Frederick Banting in 1923 for the discovery of insulin

The Nobel Prizes for 2014 were announced earlier this month. For a few days every October the world's attention is briefly focused on science, since three of the six prizes - in physiology (medicine), physics and chemistry - are for achievements in the sciences. To me, the awards are both a reminder of the importance of scientific discovery and technological innovation and an opportunity to celebrate them.

Alfred Nobel was a 19th century Swedish engineer and inventor whose great wealth was based on hundreds of patents. In his will he directed that his fortune be used to establish annual awards that recognized the discoveries or inventions that "conferred the greatest benefit on mankind".

The scientific community is divided over whether the Nobel committees have favoured discovery over invention in the science prizes - or the other way around. These opinion pieces from National Geographic and Nature convey a sense of the arguments on both sides.

This year's physics and chemistry awards both recognized innovations which resulted from applied research. Advantage invention!

To learn about Alfred Nobel and the prizes that bear his name:

Alfred Nobel: a biography       Nobel Prizes and Life Sciences       Nobel: a century of prize winners

To read more about scientific discovery and technological innovation: 

Timelines of Science How We Got To Now: six innovations that made the modern world Accidental Genius: the world's greatest by-chance discoveries

book, eBook, audiobook

eAudiobook, Talking Book



The Art of Invention: the creative process of discovery and design        Reinventing Discovery: the new era of networked science       The Scientists: an epic of discovery
   book, eBook


photo credit: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library via photopin cc