The Beginnings of the Nobel Institution: The Science Prizes, 1901-1915

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Overview

The Nobel Prizes have long been the most prestigious awards in the world of science. Established according to the wishes expressed in the will of Alfred Nobel (1895), the annual awards began in 1901. The Nobel Archives preserve the detailed study of the inner workings of the prize committees, and the archival documents, available for historical research since 1974, open the door to important new scholarship in the history and sociology of the prizes. Elisabeth Crawford was one of the first to gain access to the Nobel Archives at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and in this book she analyzes the early history of the prizes in physics and chemistry. Crawford sets out in detail the story of the intricate inner workings of the process whereby the prizewinners were selected. A fascinating picture of the contemporary international scientific establishment emerges, one shedding light on how the developing Nobel institution became enmeshed in speciality and other networks, notably those of Arrhenius and Mittag-Leffler, the two Swedish scientists who were best known internationally at the time. While the general development of disciplines and the standing of scientists in international and national communities heavily influenced the selection process, the cases presented in this book show that the specific choices of specialities, discoveries, and people to be honored were determined by the Swedish participants in the process. The question of how, after some initial uncertainties, the Nobel Prizes became synonymous with the highest achievements in science and culture is also addressed. This detailed study of the birth of what have become science's highest accolades will interest historians and scientists alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'An important contribution, The Beginnings will stir up discussion of the meaningfulness of the process and of the prizes themselves as used to measure national prowess in research.' ISIS

'... one of the first sustained scholarly efforts to put the Nobel Prizes into better perspective.' American Scientist

'Elisabeth Crawford writes ... with skill and much scholarship. She spent five years researching and writing this book. Her analysis is minute, and the wealth of detail she has managed to unearth concerning the state of science, and its institutions, in Scandinavia at the turn of the century is quite remarkable.' New Scientist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521265843
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1984
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
1 Precursors to the Nobel prizes in the sciences 10
2 Developments in Swedish and international science having a bearing on the Nobel institution 30
3 Implementing the will of Alfred Nobel, 1896-1900 60
4 An overview of the nominating system and its influence on the prize decisions 87
5 Networks at work in the prize selections: Arrhenius and Mittag-Leffler 109
6 Committee decision making 150
7 The prizes, the public, and the scientific community 188
Epilogue and conclusions 211
Appendixes
A. Provisions in the will of Alfred Nobel establishing the prizes 217
B. The statutes of the Nobel Foundation and the special regulations concerning the distribution of prizes from the Nobel Foundation by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 219
C. Members of the Nobel Committees for Physics and Chemistry elected 1900-1915 236
D. Nobel prizewinners in physics and chemistry, 1901-1915 238
A note on sources and notes 242
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