Yves Chauvin

The Truth About The Nobel Prize

Photos: Getty Images, DDP Images

Why a chemist was reluctant to accept the prestigious accolade and how The Nobel Prize may be unpredictable.

Nobel Prize: No Thank You
The procedure has always been predictable: Worthy scientist gets a call from Stockholm and, surprised and grateful, accepts the honor. 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 accept the prize.

Prix Nobel de chimie 2005

On December 7, 2005 Yves Chauvin (left), Robert H. Grubbs (center) and Richard R. Schrock (right) were awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

“If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.”
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer.

NOT SO NOBLE

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 canceled the prize. 

No! Bel. Four reasons these people never received a Nobel Prize:

Rosalind Franklin

No Man
Rosalind Franklin did crucial DNA research. Her colleagues were honored after she died. 

Sartre

No Desire
Jean-Paul Sartre didn’t accept honors on principle. Not even the Nobel literature Prize.

Gandhi

No Luck
Mahatma Gandhi received the last of his five nominations shortly before he was murdered.

Read more
11 2014 The Red Bulletin

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