Oct. 5, 2011
Awarded to Daniel Shechtman for his discovery of quasicrystals. Quasicrystals are regular patterns of packed molecules, but patterns that never repeat themselves. The structure of molecules that Shechtman discovered in quasicrystals was considered impossible at the time of his discovery, 1982. Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science to get his information published and accepted in the scientific community.
Daniel Shechtman's discovery of the quasicrystal pattern was wrong according to accepted textbook science. But Shechtman concluded that the scientific community must be mistaken in its assumptions. When he told scientists about his discovery, he was faced with complete opposition, and some colleagues even resorted to ridicule. But he persevered, and the scientific community was eventually forced to reconsider their conception of the nature of solid matter.
The Nobel committee publishes more information for the public as well as detailed scientific information. The information for the public concludes with this:
An important lesson for science
Daniel Shechtmans story is by no means unique. Over and over again in the history of science, researchers have been forced to do battle with established truths, which in hindsight have proven to be no more than mere assumptions. One of the fiercest critics of Daniel Shechtman and his quasicrystals was Linus Pauling, himself a Nobel Laureate on two occasions. This clearly shows that even our greatest scientists are not immune to getting stuck in convention. Keeping an open mind and daring to question established knowledge may in fact be a scientists most important character traits.