Field of Science

Ertl gets the Nobel, but Somorjai?

And the prize was awarded to German physical chemist Gerhard Ertl for his study of reactions at surfaces. The prize seems well-deserved, but it also seems to be awarded for the general field of surface chemistry, which leaves me (and many others I think) very surprised to say the least that Gabor Somorjai did not share it, especially also considering the fact that the two shared the Wolf Prize together. To my knowledge, Somorjai has been an absolute giant in the field. Compellingly weird.

Well, at least the prize went to a bonafide old-fashioned "chemist" this time.

Addendum: Thinking about it more, I think the Nobel Prize committee really blew it this time. This is because Somorjai is really THE obvious and preeminent candidate for a general prize in surface chemistry. He is heads and shoulders above everyone else in the field in this regard. In this particular situation therefore, the exclusion is glaringly obvious, and I think the committee is going to take a lot of flak for it.


  1. I agree with you very well!

  2. Dear Ashuthosh,

    When i heard the news this morning this is exactly what came to my mind. Interestingly enough Prof SOmorjai is quoted in NY Times as saying Ertl deserves it very much.

    With regards

  3. The Nobel Prize website seems to have implied the reason why they chose only Ertl, stating that his works were of 'more' depth and so on...

  4. How about
    George Sudarshan
    who also missed the bus.

  5. "I was a little bit disappointed he didn't share [the Nobel Prize] with me," Ertl says.

  6. it is so odd that Somorjai didn't share this prize, that I think this warrants further and official inverstigation. I wonder if the Nobel prize committee was upset at itself for awarding so many Americans over the past 2 years, that it decided to swing the pendulum the other way, and favor European scientists. (Of course, there should be no favoritism either way.)

  7. Well written. I agree

  8. I was a grad student at Berkeley and we used to call Gabor Somorjai "Mr. Clean Surface", to his face! (He's totally bald).

    He's also a real slave-driver. He once said to a friend of mine who was his grad student: "Eef I thought eet vould make you vork har-r-rder (rolled "r"), I vould SKVEEZE YOUR-R-R BALLS!" No fooling.

    Other nicknames: Alex Pines was "Old Penis-Brain" (having invented Proton Enhanced Nuclear Induction Spectroscopy--PENIS), and Peter Schultz was "Peter the Great" or "The Chipmonk from Hell".


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