何毓琦的个人博客分享 http://blog.sciencenet.cn/u/何毓琦 哈佛(1961-2001) 清华(2001-date)

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On prizes: Nobel and others

已有 7351 次阅读 2007-6-21 19:16 |系统分类:海外观察

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The Prize: Nobel and others

In every field of endeavor, prizes are award to recognize extraordinary achievements.

However, among the prizes, the Nobel prize has attained a stature in the minds of the

public unmatched by any other. Nobel laureates are often quoted in newspapers to

lend credibility even on subjects unrelated to their expertise. Particularly in China,

and for understandable reasons, the Nobel name has reached mystical and godlike

status. However, Nobel prizes are not awarded in many disciplines. For example, it is

rumored that Nobel did not want to have a prize in Mathematics because of his dislike

of the subject from his youth. The prize in Economics was administered in Norway

(not in Sweden) and strictly speaking it is the Nobel Memorial Prize, not the original

Nobel prize. It was established long after Nobel's death. And according to some, it

should not be accorded the stature which the public subscribe to a Nobel. There is

some validity to this argument based on some of the awards which I happen to know

something about. Nevertheless, prizes are prizes. Each field rightfully should

recognize her own. In engineering, so far only one prize is offered for achievements

in all branches. It is the C.S. Draper Prize given by the US National Academy of

Engineering since 1989. "Doc" Draper was the father of inertial navigation and the

founder of the famous lab at MIT that bears his name. The prize was originally given

biannually and more recently annually as more funds became available. It certainly

can be considered as the equivalent of a Nobel prize for all engineering. The

recipients since founding are:

2007: Timothy Berners-Lee for developing the World Wide Web.

2006: Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith for the invention of the Charge-Coupled Device (CCD), a

light-sensitive component at the heart of digital cameras and other widely used imaging technologies.

2005: Minoru S. "Sam" Araki, Francis J. Madden, Edward A. Miller, James W. Plummer and Don H.

Schoessler for the design, development, and operation of Corona, the first space-based Earth

observation system.

2004: Alan C. Kay, Butler W. Lampson, Robert W. Taylor, and Charles P. Thacker for the vision,

conception, and development of the first practical networked personal computers.

2003: Ivan A. Getting* and Bradford W. Parkinson for the concept and development of the Global

Positioning System (GPS).

2002: Robert Langer for the bioengineering of revolutionary medical drug delivery systems.

2001: Vinton G. Cerf, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, and Lawrence G. Roberts for the

development of the Internet.  

1999: Charles K. Kao, Robert D. Maurer, and John B. MacChesney for the development of fiber optics.

(note added: Charles Kao is the former president of the Chinese University of

HongKong and the only Chinese in the list)

1997: Vladimir Haensel* for his invention of the PlatformingTM process.

1995: John R. Pierce* and Harold A. Rosen for their development of communication satellite

technology.

1993: John Backus for his development of FORTRAN, the first widely used, general purpose, high-

level computer language.

1991: Sir Frank Whittle* and Hans J.P. von Ohain* for their independent development of the turbojet

engine.  

1989: Jack S. Kilby* and Robert N. Noyce* for their independent development of the monolithic

integrated circuit.

Except for the Platforming process award in 1997 in chemical engineering which is not well known to the

public, all others certainly are known to the public and had huge impact on all human beings. I have

mentioned earlier ( my 6/15/07 blog article) my own nomination and prediction, the invention of the

Kalman filter by Rudolf E. Kalman. Some day I'll write a separate blog on the story behind this. (NOTES aDDED 4/23/08)
 
See http://www.sciencenet.cn/blog/user_content.aspx?id=14253

for my prediction coming true)

As the

saying goes, "I was present at the creation"

Postscript: It cost  about $30 million dollars to endow in perpetuaity an annual one million dollar prize.

My suggestion: Why doesn't China or for that matter any other nation follow the lead of Normay

and establish a Nobel Memorial Prize in XXXX

This way, no one, or discipline, or nation has to be obessed with the prize anymore. The world will have

many more deserving Nobel prize winners.

OK.  I am just half kidding



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