Yves Chauvin

Nobel enough? 

Photography : Getty Images, DDP Images

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you refuse. 

Why one Nobel winner was reluctant to accept the prestigious accolade

The procedure has always been predictable: worthy scientist gets a call from Stockholm and comes over all surprised and honoured. But the committee was taken aback by the reaction of Yves Chauvin to the news.

The Frenchman was due to receive the award for chemistry in 2005 – for ‘the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis’ – but refused to accept it. He claimed that his colleagues had played a much more important role than him in the research. But Chauvin came around and eventually agreed to receive the prize. 

Prix Nobel de chimie 2005

Frenchman Yves Chauvin (left), and Americans Robert H. Grubbs (center) and Richard R. Schrock (right) receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on the 7th of December 2005. 

“If I had a thousand ideas and one turned out well then I would be satisfied”
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
Alfred Nobel

The Swede Alfred Nobel made ​​his fortune as a chemist, industrialist and arms dealer.

The Nobel Prize may be unpredictable, but it is logical that there isn’t a prize for mathematics

One thing is certain, if it weren’t for dynamite, there would be no Nobel Prize. The chemist Alfred Nobel made his fortune through the commercial exploitation of his explosive invention. Is the lucrative prize the result of an unclear conscience? That’s how the legend goes, at any rate. Another uncorroborated anecdote explains why there is no award for mathematics. A mathematical genius is said to have wooed Nobel’s beloved away from him, whereupon the wronged party promptly cancelled the prize.

Going, going, gong. These unfortunates didn’t win a Nobel Prize

Rosalind Franklin

NO MANRosalind Franklin did crucial DNA research. Her colleagues were honoured after she died. 


Jean-Paul Sartre didn’t accept honours on principle. Not even the Nobel Literature Prize. 


Mahatma Ghandi received the last of his five nominations shortly before he was murdered.

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11 2014 The Red Bulletin

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