Einstein and Wigner

and

their Nobel Prizes


    Einstein received his Nobel prize in 1921,
    but not for

    E = mc2.

    What went wrong?

  • Einstein was very productive in 1905. He completed his theory of special relativity, and he published his papers on photo-electric effect and Brownian motions (proving Avogadro's number is a physical number).

    The problem was and still is why the Nobel Committee did not give credits to his formulation of special relativity leading to his E = mc 2. This question is still debated in the physics literature.



  • In 1963, Eugene Wigner was awarded the Nobel prize for his contribution to symmetry problems in physics. Here again, the Nobel Committee did not give any special credit to his contribution to special relativity, as in the case of Einstein.

      from the Reviews of Modern Physics (October 1962).
    We do not know how the Committee's decision was made, but it is safe to assume that the committee members examined carefully the special issue of the Reviews of Modern Physics dedicated to Eugene Paul Wigner on his 60th Birthday. You may click here for this issue. If your computer cannot reach this journal, you may click here for the cover and contents pages of this issue.

    In this issue, Paul A. M. Dirac is the only author who mentioned Wigner's


    Wigner received his Nobel prize in 1963
    but not for

    his 1939 paper on the Lorentz group.

    What went wrong?

    1939 paper on the inhomogeneous Lorentz group.

    Dirac mentioned this paper in general terms, but he did not discuss Wigner's little groups carrying specific physical interpretations. No other authors in this issue mentioned this paper.

    Thus, we cannot blame the Nobel Committee for not mentioning this paper as Wigner's major contribution. Wigner was happy to receive his Nobel prize, but not 100-percent happy because he did not receive the full credit for the paper dearest to his heart.

  • Many people are wondering how I was able to approach Wigner and publish papers with him during his late years. The reason is very simple. I told him Wigner what he really wanted to hear. I told Wigner that he deserved one full Nobel prize for his 1939 paper on his little groups governing the

    internal pace-time symmetries in the Lorentz-covariant world.

    I presented to him the following table, which I published in J. Math. Phys. (1986), with my younger colleagues (D. Han and D. Son).

    Contents of Einstein's E = mc2
    Particle Variables Massive/Slow between Massless/Fast
    Einstein
    Energy
    Momentum
    E=p2/2m Einstein's
    E=(m2 + p2)1/2
    E= cp
    Wigner Helicity
    Spin, Gauge
    S3
    S1 S2
    Winner's
    Little Group
    Helicity
    Gauge Trans.