Press "Enter" to skip to content

Why Isn’t There a Nobel Prize in Mathematics

mathsMany people wonder why there isn’t a Nobel Prize in mathematics. You may hear some stories claiming the main reason there is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics is that Alfred Nobel’s love interest had an affair with the Swedish mathematician Gosta Magnus Mittag-Leffler. Therefore, he decided to exclude mathematics. However, even though this is a nice story, there is no any actual evidence backing the story. Alfred didn’t have a wife even though there are some evidence suggesting he had a mistress, but no real evidence was found on his mistress having an affair with a mathematician. Therefore, the real reasons are a lot more prosaic.

Anecdotes Circulating

alfred nobelThis story revolving around Alfred’s love interest and her affair with a mathematician is circling around for decades. You may hear it from university professors and other mathematicians on regular basis. The story suggests Alfred was greatly offended by the affair and in his will decided there should be no a Nobel Prize in mathematics as he was feared that famed Gosta Magnus Mittag-Leffler would win it. Even though this is a nice anecdote for students in a classroom, it is far away from the truth. Aside from dating several women, there is no any proof Alfred had any significant love affair. This immediately excludes the reason from the above.

Another anecdote suggests that Alfred had a feud with mentioned Mittag-Leffler and that is why he decided to exclude mathematics. However, there is no any evidence backing up this story as well. It even is not clear if the two scientists ever met. However, there are some more reasonable explanations behind Alfred’s decision for not selecting mathematics for the prize. Many people believe that Alfred Nobel simply was not very interested in mathematics and that he did not grasp those practical benefits to the society of advanced mathematics.

Establishing the Prizes for Fields Which Interested Him

The Nobel Prize was created as an award for people who made those greatest contributions to the world in subjects that interested Alfred. It seems like Alfred simply did not see the benefits in providing an award for mathematicians, as the subject was not interesting to him. He stuck with those subjects he felt comes with the greatest benefits to the world like chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and medicine. Alfred Nobel also wanted top award people for some practical inventions and he thought mathematics, in general, was too theoretical. Also, at the time there was already established a prestigious mathematics award by Swedish Monarch Oscar II. Today there are two prestigious awards given to mathematicians the Fields Medal and the Abel Prize that are the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons