Eyes on the prize


Well, I guess you’ve all heard the news by now that Gerhard Ertl has won the Nobel Prize in chemistry this year. This is, in my opinion, a thoroughly deserved award, which recognizes Ertl’s achievements in surface chemistry. He is one of the fathers of the area, famous for his seminal work on hydrogen adsorption to metal surfaces, the mechanism of the Haber-Bosch process and the oxidation of carbon monoxide on platinum. The Nobel Prize website has an excellent summary of his work here.

So did any of you predict the result? Top marks must surely go to Paul at ChemBark, who did indeed include Ertl on his shortlist of possible winners. I imagine all eyes will be on ChemBark next year for more top tips.

Of course, no Nobel prize can go by without some controversy, and some people are questioning why Gabor Somorjai (who was jointly awarded the Wolf Prize for chemistry with Ertl in 1998) wasn’t also honoured. But then again, the Nobel judges always seem to come in for criticism – I remember in previous years they were knocked for including too many winners…

I’ll be curious to see how much coverage the chemistry prize gets in the national press. The prize for medicine certainly attracted a lot of attention in the UK (but of course, one of the prizewinners was a Brit). The physics prize seems to have had less coverage, despite being branded as “The Physics of the iPod”. This year’s chemistry prize has perhaps the most obvious real-world relevance of recent Nobel awards for the subject – but will that be enough to inspire the press?


Andrew Mitchinson (Associate Editor, Nature)

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