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Nobel prize for mathematics

There’s no Nobel Prize for Mathematics

This is a common statement. I’ve certainly used it myself. Recently it occurred to me to be annoyed with this.

Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace and economics, but not mathematics.

On the other hand, mathematics is widely applicable and I think I could convince you it is certainly used in physics (career), chemistry (career), biology (career), medicine (career) and economics (career). (Links to the excellent Plus Magazine and Maths Careers.) The case for literature and peace might be a bit harder to sell. But even without these two we still have a majority.

So perhaps from now on I will try to remember to say:

Most of the Nobel Prizes are for Mathematics1

[1. there is a fallacy here: for example, saying that some mathematics can be applied to economics does not mean that all economics involves mathematics. But, shh!]

6 Responses to “Nobel prize for mathematics”

  1. John Read

    The peace and literature prizes are probably the most controversial, and I agree it is hard to spot much Mathematics in the list of winners of these. The reasons why Nobel chose Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace (these were his original categories – economics was a later addition) are interesting in any case – his background was physics and chemistry and his fortune that funds the prizes came from ballistics and dynamite.


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