Saturday 17 October 2009

The Telegraph: Kapany -Missed Nobel
Hat-trick of Nobel misses


New Delhi, Oct. 16: In at least three instances over the past century, Nobel committees appear to have ignored the contributions of Indians while picking physics prize-winners, according to Shivanand Kanavi, a physicist-turned-author. The three scientists are E.C. George Sudarshan, Meghnad Saha and Satyen Bose.

Narinder Singh Kapany, who pioneered the science of transmitting light through glass fibres but was overlooked by the Royal Swedish Academy when it chose to award Shanghai-born Charles Kao this year, is an addition to the list.

In 2005, several physicists argued that Indian-born US physicist Sudarshan should have shared the prize with Roy Glauber for his own contributions to quantum optics.

“The prize-winners are chosen by the Royal Academy, but no one has the right to take my discoveries and formulations and ascribe them to someone else,” Sudarshan had written in a communication to the academy.

In 1999, Falk Riess, of the University of Oldenburg, Germany, and his colleague Rajinder Singh used decades-old documents translated from the Swedish to describe how Meghnad Saha had not received the Nobel Prize despite outstanding research in astrophysics for which he had received two Nobel nominations in 1930.

Satyen Bose, who in the early 1920s helped develop Bose-Einstein statistics that explains the behaviour of some atoms when they are cooled to temperatures just a whisker above minus 273.15 degrees Celsius — the lowest possible temperature — also didn’t get the prize.

Kanavi, who has documented Kapany’s contributions to fibre optics in a book Sand to Silicon published five years ago, said that over the decades, three Nobel Prizes in physics have gone to research derived from Bose-Einstein statistics: superconductivity, superfluidity, and Bose-Einstein condensate.

Einstein had won the Nobel in 1921 for other work.

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