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Nobel prize for maths (and the lack thereof)

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Nobel prize for maths (and the lack thereof)


I've heard rumours that the reason that there is no Nobel prize for maths is because at the time Alfred Nobel was putting his prizes together, some prominent mathematician was being more than friendly with Mrs. Alfred Nobel. Looking around on t'interweb seems to indicate that Alfred never actually married, but I'm not sure how much I can trust this. Does anybody have any idea if the rumour is more or less correct, a distortion of facts (perhaps some woman that Nobel had his eye on got together with some other mathematician) or an outright lie spread by disgruntled mathematicians?


They say this is true... but there is no evidence to this. Probably another invention of bored reporters. ;-)


I have heard a more plausable reason which was in a documentary about Nobels life on PBS.

The premise was that Nobel spent his life perfecting explosives and the manufacture there of. But then these were put to horrible use in wars. Feeling guilty he turned to making a legacy for his fortune, hence the prizes. But the goal for the prizes is that they should be awarded to people who advance civilization -- hence, the areas which are quantitative rather than qualitative must therefore be applicable.

So literature and peace are qualitative professions. Physics and chemistry are quantitative and so only applied varieties of these will receive the prize. Hence, not only math, but also theoretical chemistry and physics will be overlooked. Yes, all these disciplines will eventually prove to have applications, but the prize is not given postumously, so the applications must be found during the life time of the inventor.

So who in math might qualify if Nobel had thought to add an applied math category? Rivest Shimir and Adelman come to mind for inventing RSA. But what has really occured over the past several years is that applied math has been accepted if done in the context of "economics."
So math people can get in this way.

Some people say, well you math people have the Fields medal. Sure, that has a prize of roughly 50,000 and is given every 4 years to 2-4 people. The nobel prizes come in the million dollar range these days. ....but....emergine now in prominance, not to be out down by Sweden...comes the Abel prize from Norway! ....Just for math, right at the same million dollar mark and quite honestly, I'd prefer Abel's name on my math prize to Field or Nobel any day!

...of course, now I have to go earn the prize!

Here's an article explaining this myth. as you can see they pretty much say the same thing that algeboy said. Since Math is not usually an applied subject, Nobel really didn't care about it.

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