Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1961 - 1965

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for physics from 1961 to 1965 including Landau, Towers, and Feynman, what they won for, as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1961 Robert Hofstadter (1915- ), American. Work: Investigating atomic nuclei and researching the structure of nucleons.

Rudolf L. Mossbauer (1929- ), German. Work: Finding a method of producing and measuring recoil-free gamma rays.

1962 Lev D. Landau (1908-1968), Russian. Work: Studies on condensed gases.

Behind the Award--Rumor had it that Edward Teller, creator of the hydrogen bomb, was being considered for the award in 1962. He never did get a Nobel Prize.

1963 Eugene P. Wigner (1902- ), American (b. Hungary).

Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1906- ), American (b. Poland).

J. Hans D. Jensen (1907- ), German. Work: Contributing to nuclear and theoretical physics.

1964 Charles H. Townes (1915- ), American.

Nikolai G. Basov (1922- ), Russian.

Aleksandr M. Prochorov (1916- ), Russian. Work: Fundamental research in quantum electronics.

Behind the Award--The academic world was astounded when Townes shared the prize with 2 unknown Russians, who had published nothing beyond crudely duplicating notes. However, they had, with primitive instruments, discovered the maser-laser principle; Townes had discovered the same principle using far more sophisticated equipment. Professor Erik Rudberg, chairman of the Physics Prize Committee, stated that findings with primitive instruments should be rewarded just as much as findings discovered by "button pushing on expensive instruments."

1965 Richard P. Feynman (1918- ), American.

Julian S. Schwinger (1918- ), American.

Sin-itiro Tomonaga (1906- ), Japanese. Work: Research in quantum electrodynamics.

Behind the Award--When Feynman won the prize, a student put his picture over the face of Christ in a plaque of The Last Supper. Feynman is an iconoclast and a natural showman, perhaps the only writer to include a picture of himself beating drums in a college physics text. He describes his work in terms of playing chess with a Martian: "If you don't know the rules and you see only parts of the board, how do you know how to play? If you know all the rules, can you tell what's in the Martian's mind when he moves the pieces in a certain way? The biggest mystery of physics is where the laws are known, but we don't know exactly what's going on. We don't know the strategy in the middle game...." Feynman once asked an editor of the Almanac, "Do the Nobel committees really investigate the personal lives of winners before giving the award?" He was told, "Yes, they certainly do." Amused, Feynman said, "Well, that finally explains something that's puzzled me. I made my prizewinning discovery in 1949, but I was not honored for it until 1965. Now I can see it was my personal life that kept me from getting the award those many years--until the Nobel committee finally saw I had settled down with my 3rd wife and I now had a child, and that I had become the model of a family man."

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