Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1971 - 1975

About the winners of the Nobel Prize for physics from 1971 to 1975 including Gabor, Schrieffer, and Ryle, what they won for, as well as behind the scenes information on the decision.

1971 Dennis Gabor (1900- ), British (b. Hungary). Work: Inventor of holography.

Behind the Award--A refugee from Hitler's Germany, Gabor invented holography, a method of taking 3-dimensional photographs using laser beams. He 1st got the idea when watching a tennis match at Rugby in 1947, when he wondered if different 3-dimensional images of play from various parts of the court could be filmed. He set out to find a way to do it and, years later, was successful. He named his invention "holography" from the Greek words for whole and image. The viewer of a holographic image can look around objects to see other objects at 1st hidden. Holography is now an important industry with applications in component testing and the storing of computer data. It may eventually be the basis for 3-dimensional television and movies. With 100 patents to his credit, Gabor said upon winning the prize, "I feel that I am very, very lucky. Every Nobel winner is lucky, but I'm extra lucky. Most people get the prize for one thing they spent a long life in science to accomplish. I'm an outsider. I worked in industrial laboratories most of my life, and industrial workers rarely get Nobel prizes. What I did was not pure science. I consider it an invention."

1972 John Bardeen (1908- ), American.

Leon N. Cooper (1920- ), American.

John R. Schrieffer (1929- ), American. Work: Discovery of a theory explaining superconductivity, the property of supercold metals to lose their electrical resistance.

Behind the Award--Bardeen was one of the few people to win a Nobel Prize twice. He shared the prize for physics in 1956. (The other 2 people to win the prize 2 times were Marie Curie and Linus Pauling.) The idea for the discovery 1st came to Schrieffer while he was riding the New York subway. Work was completed in January, 1957. On the day it was done, a colleague of Bardeen's met him in the hall. He reports the meeting: "It seemed we must have stood there for 5 minutes without him saying a word. Finally he said, 'Well, we've solved the problem of superconductivity.' It was the most enormous news I had ever heard. He just had to tell someone, but he couldn't get started." Students, who once called the shy professor "Smiling Jack," now call him "Whispering John." The morning that he won the prize, Bardeen was unable to open his electronically controlled garage door, a device made possible by the work for which he had won the prize in 1956. Cooper, the 3rd member of the team, is called the "Swinging Scientist" because of his mod clothes and his love of art and French cooking. The discovery, called the BCS theory from their initials, may make it possible for electricity to be transmitted for long distances without any power loss.

1973 Ivar Giaever (1930- ), American (b. Norway).

Leo Esaki (1926- ), American (b. Japan). Work: Research in miniature electronics.

Brian David Josephson (1941- ), British. Work: Research regarding semiconductors and superconductors.

Behind the Award--The prize this year was $122,000. Esaki, on winning it, said, "Americans think an American Esaki won the award. On the other hand, the Japanese think a Japanese Esaki won it, and that's fine with me because science is international and the Nobel Prize is international."

1974 Antony Hewish (1924- ), English. Work: Invention of new uses of small radio-telescopes.

Martin Ryle (1918- ), English.

Work: Discovery of pulsars in outer space.

Behind the Award--The 1st Nobel Prize ever given to astronomers. Aware of radio signals or pulses from afar, Dr. Hewish thought they might be coming from intelligent life outside the solar system. He finally concluded, according to The New York Times, they "were coming from relatively small celestial objects that were spinning. A spinning source of radio waves will give the impression when viewed from one point of turning off and on repeatedly." Dr. Ryle's radiotelescopes "had extended man's view of the universe far beyond the limits of light telescopes ... it is now possible to 'see' objects in the universe several billion light-years away. A light-year is about 3.6 trillion mi."

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