Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1953 to 1957

About the Nobel Prize Award for Physics 1953 to 1957 including the scientists Born and Bothe, their works, and history.


1953 Fritz Zernike (1888-1966), Dutch

Work: Invention of the phase-contrast microscope

1954 Max Born (1882-1970), British (b. Germany)

Work: Fundamental research in quantum mechanics and nuclear physics

Walther Bothe (1891-1957), German

Work: Development of the coincidence method for measuring time

Nobel Laureates: Fleeing Hitler in 1933, Born settled in Great Britain, teaching first at Cambridge, then at Edinburgh University. Unlike many other scientific refugees from Germany. Born played no role in the development of the atomic bomb. "I, personally, am glad," he wrote in 1951, "not to have been involved in the pursuit of research which has already been used for the most terrible mass destruction in history and threatens humanity with even worse disaster. I think that the applications of nuclear physics to peaceful ends are a poor compensation for these perils." He liked music and hiking.

Bothe, born near Berlin, studied under Max Planck until 1914, when he marched for the kaiser in W.W. I. However, his role in W.W. II went beyond that of a mere foot soldier. He engineered Germany's first cyclotron and assisted in the Nazi effort to develop the atomic bomb. After the war, he blamed Germany's failure to acquire nuclear weapons on the Nazi insistence that all theoretical physics contributed by Jews was wrong and therefore was not to be taught. He warned that a similar stifling atmosphere in the U.S.S.R. would retard scientific growth in that country, too.

Nobel Lore: Bothe had a leg amputated a year before the Nobel presentation and for this reason failed to show up.

1955 Willis E. Lamb, Jr. (1913- ), American

Work: Discoveries related to the fine structure of the hydrogen spectrum

Polykarp Kusch (1911- ), American (b. Germany)

Work: Precision measurement of the electron's electromagnetic properties

1956 John Bardeen (1908- ), American

Walter H. Brattain (1902- ), American

William B. Shockley (1910- ), American (b. England)

Work: Development of the transistor

1957 Tsung Dao Lee (1926- ), American (b. China)

Chen Ning Yang (1922- ), American (b. China)

Work: Disproof of the parity conservation law in nuclear physics

Nobel Laureates: Born in Shanghai, Lee first came to the U.S. in 1946 on a physics fellowship to the University of Chicago, where he acquired his doctorate. By this time, he, together with Yang, had already begun to question the validity of the parity conservation principle, long held as gospel among physicists. The erroneous theory held that a nuclear reaction and its mirror image are identical, or in other words, that nuclear reactions are symmetrical. Since 1964 Lee has been the Fermi Professor of Physics at Columbia University.

Yang was born in Anhwei Province. He left his homeland in 1945 on a University of Chicago scholarship to study under Enrico Fermi. In 1949 he joined the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, rising to full professor there six years later. Since 1966 he has served as the Einstein Professor of Physics at New York State University's Stony Brook campus. Besides the 1957 Nobel award, Lee and Yang's discovery earned them the Albert Einstein Award that same year. Yang goes by the name Frank.

Nobel Lore: Lee, at 30, was the youngest Nobel laureate since 25-year-old W. Lawrence Bragg shared the physics prize in 1915. Lee and Yang were escorted to Stockholm under heavy security for fear of Chinese Communist harassment. They traveled in separate planes. Only two reporters were informed of their arrival times. Chinese Communist embassy officials in Stockholm offered to make arrangements for the laureates' immediate return to China. Lee and Yang declined. Both had relatives still living in China.

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