Chemistry: Nobel prizes rejected and discontent entered history

Chemistry: Nobel prizes rejected and discontent entered history

On the occasion of the centenary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Fritz Preegel (Ljubljana, 1869 – Graz, 1930), a choice which did not fail to arouse some indignation, it is legitimate to ask the question again: Is the Nobel Prize in fact an “objective” award for research or Do they reflect personal thoughts and feelings and individual preferences?

A few years ago, in ameeting with 24 hours onlyPerdomenico Perata, who was at that time rector of the Scuola S. Anna in Pisa, expressed himself in this regard: “The Nobel Prizes are important but prizes are awarded with subjective criteria. Let us take that into account.” Pirata called for consideration of the “defining weight” of the honor, starting at its origin: a choice made by a private legal institution, with its own money and criteria. “It must be said that the Nobel Prizes are rarely ‘wrong’,” he added. , at least in scientific disciplines, but for others it is not always true: how many debates have there been about literature or about the peace prizes?

Briegel was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 “for the invention of the method for the microanalysis of organic matter”. We recall that the term “microanalysis” refers to the identification and quantitative analysis of very small amounts of chemicals (generally less than 10 mg or 1 mL) or very small surfaces (generally less than 1 cm).2). The motive for Briegl’s award does not seem to question the fact that he did not share the merit of the invention with others. Choosing Briegel as the sole recipient of the prize was perhaps an oversimplification, even if it should be remembered that until 1966 the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry were not shared among multiple laureates.

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Indeed, the question may have been raised in the Chemistry Committee itself whether Olof Hammersten (1841-1932), president Of the same, while delivering the inaugural address at the ceremony on 10 December 1923, he felt the need to stress that Bregel’s work was not a new discovery, adding that it was essentially a revision and improvement of old methods. Naturally, before expressing this judgment, Hammartsen noted in due course that “a fundamental improvement of a previously known method can, in some cases, be of great value for further research and for the development of science, as a new scientific discovery.” Moreover, Alfred Nobel himself was of the same opinion when he created the prize.

But who could be the “neglected” author by the Swedish judges? Opinions converge on Friedrich Emich (Graz, 1860 – 1940) who, according to some, should be considered the true pioneer and founder of quantitative fine chemistry, because Bregel did nothing but adopt and improve the methods fine-tuned by his colleague from Graz.

But speaking of bad moods that have passed through history, let’s hear about Herbert K. Alper (Emmick’s former collaborator) who was assigned the exact chemistry portion of the volume History of chemistry Written by HA Laitinen, GW Ewing (Publisher, Analytical Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, 1977). “Emitch… deserves credit as the founder of quantitative microanalysis in both organic and inorganic chemistry. However, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Breegel, who adopted Emek’s techniques. This somewhat acidic illustration by Albert, mentioned by Ferenc Zapadvari in his book A history of fine chemistry to 1945Which revealed a kind of “light indignation” accompanied by this comment: “But in the history of science, it is a common feature that everyone adopts something from another person, and others will adopt and improve all previous achievements. Not only did Brieg adopt his techniques from Emick, but also from Liebig and Dumas. The awarding of Nobel Prizes is subjective, as with all prizes. I do not claim that it could have been attributed to Emick, but Briegel certainly deserved it very much, because his method marked a new era in many scientific disciplines.

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Later, other well-known scholars, such as R. Pilcher (1909-1982), an authoritative British analytical chemist. Belcher he wrote This joint recognition would have been a fair and just decision. How do we disagree with him?

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