Nobel Prize in Physics: Winners & Contributions

Instructor: Michael Blosser

Michael has a Masters in Physics and a Masters in International Development. He has over 5 years of teaching experience, teaching Physics, Math, and English classes.

Given once a year to physicists whose discoveries have made huge contributions to the field and to our daily lives, the Nobel Prize in Physics is the most prestigious award in science. Learn about some winners and their significant achievements.

The Nobel Prize

What is the Nobel Prize? And why is it such an honor to win the award? The Nobel Prize is a prestigious international award based on the legacy of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel that has been given out once a year since 1901 in the categories of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, economics, and peace. This lesson will focus on the Nobel Prize of Physics and discuss various winners and their contributions. The Nobel Prize is the most prestigious award in physics and is only given to physicists who have made the greatest contributions to their field and to the world around us.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein is probably the most famous physicist and scientist in the world. Although Albert Einstein is most famous for his theory of general relativity, that theory is not the one that earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics. Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his theory of the photo-electric effect. The photoelectric effect is a discovery that Albert Einstein made in 1905, in which he discovered that although light sometimes acts as a wave, light also is made up of particles (now known as photons) and that these particles can create electricity. The knowledge we learned from Albert Einstein's theory of the photo-electric effect is what allows us to create solar cells that use sunlight to create electricity today.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie, a famous chemist and physicist, is also one of the most famous Nobel Prize winners. Marie Curie is one of only two people in history who have won the Nobel Prize in two fields, a Nobel Prize in Physics and a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Marie Curie , along with her husband Pierre and another physicist Henri Becquerel, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for the discovery of radioactivity. Marie Curie was also the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Radioactivity or radioactive decay, is when the nucleus, or center of an atom, emits a particle due the instability of the nucleus. There are three main types of radioactivity:

  • Alpha radiation
  • Beta radiation
  • Gamma radiation

Radiation can be dangerous, but it can also be used in numerous applications that benefit millions of people, such as in x-ray machines, medicine, and carbon-dating (when it is used to find the age of a material), and it can be used to create energy.

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