Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1966 - 1970

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for physics from 1966 to 1970 including Bethe, Alvarez, and Gell-mann, what they won for, as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1966 Alfred Kastler (1902- ), French. Work: Discovering and developing optical methods for studying Herzian resonances in atoms.

1967 Hans A. Bethe (1906- ), American (b. Germany). Work: Contributing to the theory of nuclear reaction and discovering energy production of the stars.

Behind the Award--When Bethe got the award, he was asked what dangers such an honor might hold. "Well, I think that the main danger is that from now on I may feel I can only do important work," he said.

1968 Luis W. Alvarez (1911- ), American. Work: Studies in the physics of subatomic particles and the development of techniques for detecting them.

Behind the Award--Alvarez commanded a large team which came up with the research that won Alvarez the prize. Probably for the 1st time, the Nobel judges recognized the importance of a researcher's ability to administrate, organize, and coordinate a team of people to get the answers to a difficult problem. An associate remarked of Alvarez, "He's a bit of a swashbuckler with great imagination and unusual ideas such as [exploring] the pyramid of Khafre to find hidden chambers." Alvarez also designed the 1st bad-weather landing system for planes (he's an enthusiastic pilot), floated spark chambers to the upper atmosphere to observe high-energy physics, and developed an indoor golf trainer with a photoelectric cell to keep track of the head of the golf club while the golfer swings. One of his golf trainers was given to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

1969 Murray Gell-Mann (1929- ), American. Work: Research into the interactions of elementary particles, including the theoretical model that he calls "the Eight-fold Way."

Behind the Award--Fond of literary allusions, round-faced, bespectacled Murray Gell-Mann chose the name "the Eight-fold Way" from Buddhism: "This is the noble truth that leads to cessation of pain. This is the noble Eight-fold way--right views, right intentions, right speech, right action...." Gell-Mann got into physics very casually. When filling out an application form, he had to put down his future occupation. He wanted to be an archaeologist (he still pursues it as a hobby), but his father said there was no money in that and suggested engineering. Gell-Mann hated engineering, so he put down physics. Gell-Mann is awed by the simplicity of his discoveries. "Why should an aesthetic criterion be successful so often? Is it just that it satisfies physicists? I think there is only one answer--nature is inherently beautiful," he says.

1970 Louis Neel (1904- ), French.

Hannes Alfven (1908- ), Swedish. Work: Research into ferromagnetism and antiferromagnetism as well as basic work in magnetohydrodynamics.

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