Nobel Prize snub: Real reason Richard Feynman rejected award revealed

On Sunday, US President Donald Trump lashed out at the media following the tumultuous days he faced after suggesting people should inject disinfectant to kill the coronavirus – the virus sweeping the world. In a tweet, he demanded journalists return their “Nobel Prizes” for their work on reporting Russian interference in the 2016 elections, soon after deleting the string of tweets.

Likely referring to the Pulitzer Prize – the awards specifically for outstanding reporting – Trump again resorted to his defence that he was being sarcastic, as he did after the disinfectant fiasco.

Although his words at this point are highly contentious, if Richard Feynman, the famous physicist who helped create the atomic bomb and popularise science in the latter half of the 20th century, were a journalist of today, he might well renounce his “Nobel Prize”.

This is because after winning the prize in 1965, Feynman relinquished his unease at the award turning the scientists into an institution.

It was no strange thing for Feynman to offer an opinion contrary to authority.

Often called a buffoon and a magician, Feynman was scolded by the scientific world for his pursuit of things outside science, like art and music.

A series of televised lecturers for the public secured his place in the households of millions in the US and the rest of the world.

It was here that his excitement and passion for science trickled into the popular psyche and admitted countless young people into the world of science.

He loved science and its limitless possibilities of discovery; it is no surprise, then, that he viewed his Nobel Prize with indifference.

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In archive footage broadcast during the BBC’s The Fantastic Mr Feynman in 2013, an interviewer asked Feynman: “Was it worth the Nobel Prize?”

Feynman replied: “I don’t know anything about the Nobel Prize.

“I don’t understand what it’s all about or what’s worth what.

“If the people in the Swedish Academy decide that X, Y or Z wins the Nobel Prize then so be it.


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“I don’t see that it makes any point that someone in the Swedish Academy decides that this work is noble enough to receive a prize.

“I’ve already got the prize; the prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick and the discovery, the observation that other people use it, those are the real things.

“The honours aren’t real to me, I don’t believe in honours.

“It bothers me, honours bothers me, honours is epaulets, honours is uniforms.

“My papa brought me up this way I can’t stand it, it hurts me.”

The Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 was awarded to two others alongside Feynman.

They were Japanese physicist, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, and American theoretical physicist, Julian Schwinger.

Their joint prize was given “for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles”.

Feynman is probably best known for his pivotal role in helping to plan the creation of the atomic bomb.

Known as the Manhattan Project, leading scientists from around the world were recruited by the US to race against the Nazis in creating a nuclear weapon.

Their creation was completed in 1945, and the first ever nuclear device detonated was dubbed; it went on to be dropped on Japan in the same year in two cities, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

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