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by Yaroslav RENKAS, Cand. Sc. (Hist.)

In late 2001 a centenary of awarding Nobel Prizes, the most prestigious awards for the planet's intellectuals, was celebrated.

The first Nobel prize laureates were: Emil Behring - German microbiologist and immunologist, who proposed antitetanus and antidiphtheria antitoxic serum, worked out a method of active immunization against diphtheria; Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen (Germany) - a physicist-experimenter, who discovered X-rays and studied their properties; Jacobus Henricus Van't Hoff - a Dutch scientist, foreign corresponding member of the Petersburg AS, one of the founders of stereochemistry, who formulated the theory of special configuration of atoms in molecules, the law of chemical kinetics and osmotic pressure in solutions.

Let's remember that these prizes are granted by the Foundation of Swedish chemist and industrialist, inventor of dynamite and detonator to it, Alfred Nobel (1833-1896). In his will of November 27, 1895, he ordered to set up an annual monetary premium from his yearly capital profits (32 mln Swedish crowns) for people, whose contribution to the sphere of physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature and strengthening of peace is invaluable in the elapsed year (though it takes a lot more time to assess these achievements). The final decision on this issue is taken by the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm (prize for peace is awarded by Norwegian Nobel Committee, as by the moment of writing the will by Nobel, Norway was under Sweden). The Nobel Prize for achievements in economics (official name - the Prize of the Bank of Sweden in memory of A. Nobel) is awarded from 1969.

Among prize-winners are also our compatriots. Here are their names:

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Name and Surname


Physiology and medicine

Ivan Pavlov



Ilya Mechnikov



Ivan Bunin



Nikolai Semyonov



Pavel Cherenkov, Ilya Frank, Igor Tamm



Boris Pasternak (did not accept)



Lev Landau



Nikolai Basov, Alexander Prokhorov



Mikhail Sholokhov



Alexander Solzhenitsyn



Leonid Kantorovich



Andrei Sakharov



Pyotr Kapitsa



losif Brodsky



Mikhail Gorbachev



Zhores Alferov

The procedure of nomination of candidates for prizes is a rather difficult one. Nobel prize committees specially set up for this purpose are carrying out an enormous work. As a rule, 2,000 letters-questionnaires are sent to potential nominees and experts - leading scientists and men of letters of our planet or corresponding organizations. If must be noted that their answers and meetings of the Nobel Committees are strictly confidential.

Multi-year statistics confirm: usually only 15 percent of respondents send in their answers. On the basis of their opinions in each of the categories out of more than a hundred candidates approximately 25 are selected for final discussion. It goes without saying that at the given stage a subjective factor plays a role of prominence. That's why certain outstanding discoveries remain bypassed by this high award. However, on the whole all phenomenal achievements of the 20th- century scientists have been duly assessed.

Almost in the same way in October 2001 the Moscow Nezavisimaya gazeta tried to "reveal" potential candidates for the Nobel Prize among native scientists. About 20 Russian scientists were questioned.

The rating showed: the least number of "Nobel" candidates appeared in the nomination "Physiology and Medicine". Some experts, "NG" points out, had difficulties in proposing candidates in the sphere of knowledge. A leading position went to Alexei Olovnikov, Cand. Sc. (Biology), a researcher at the Institute of Biochemical Physics (named after Nikolai Emanuel), RAS. In 1971 he for the first time voiced a supposition on the role of the enzyme telomerase in the process of aging a live cell. In 1988 this idea was experimentally confirmed by American specialists.

A considerable number of researchers, whose works deserve this high scientific award, were nominated in the sphere of "Chemistry". In the final list are included only those who were named twice and more. The most frequently mentioned name was that of Yu.Ts. Oganesyan, head of the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions (named after G. Flerov) from the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research (Dubna), RAS Corresponding member. It is true that many experts had difficulties in choosing the nomination: physics or chemistry, as his scientific specialization is "Physics of Solids", while he said a new word in science being engaged in synthesis and research of the properties of transuranic chemical elements; he experimentally confirmed the existence of "the stability island" of superheavy chemical elements.*

In the nomination "Physics" all questioned unanimously named Vladilen Letokhov, section head of laser spectroscopy of the Institute of Spectroscopy, RAS (Troitsk), Dr. Sc. (Phys. and Math.). And this notwithstanding the fact, that in 1997 the Nobel Committee for physics apparently "forgot" pioneer works of this scientist, awarding the prize to two Americans (Stephen Chu, William D. Fillips) and a Frenchman (Claude Cohen Tannudji). Our experts consider Letokhov's contribution very significant as his research remains topical even today.

The rating included also the names of academicians Vitaly Ginzburg (P. Lebedev Physical Institute, RAS) and Yuri Osipyan (Institute of Physics of Solids, RAS). They both were more than once included in the list of candidates. The former made an outstanding contribution in the study of superconductivity and superviscosity. He carried out a number of works on the theory of radiation of evenly moving sources. The latter studied the effect of the light on plastic deformation of crystals and in 1984 discovered the so-called photoplastic effect.

Thus, even an incomplete list of native scientists testifies: the achievements of our "Newtons" are still quite significant. It is simply that many of their works were not sufficiently "built up" at a proper time in the periodicals and special literature.

See: Ye. Molchanov, "Searching for 'Islands of Stability'", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1999 . - Ed.



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