More chemistry-bashing

By Marcus Wilson 15/10/2009

There is nothing a physicist likes better than to get one up on a chemist. In a friendly way of course. Rather like New Zealand beating Australia at some sporting event.  

So it is with great delight that I hear that the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to a physicist. (See commentary by The Institute of Physics).

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan is not the only physicist with this distinction. Ernest Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (not Physics) in 1908. Rather ironic for someone who said "All science is either physics or stamp-collecting."

0 Responses to “More chemistry-bashing”

  • I know I have said this before but I think if you take Rutherford at his meaning, chemistry is just a small subset of physics that deals with atoms and molecules and ions interacting elctromagnetically. So the Nobel prize in chemistry is really just a second prize for physics anyway.

  • Chemist or biophysicist?

    If you’re going to name Venki, you could also name Aaron Klug, Johann Deisenhofer and a bunch of others 🙂 Structural biologists commonly have physics backgrounds, esp. those who started the field or were active in it’s earlier days.

    There are a few Physiology & Medicine Nobel laureates with physics backgrounds with, too (e.g. Francis Crick).

    I’m being a party-pooper, aren’t I? On the other hand, you’ve got more physicists to count…! 😉

    • I guess what it really shows is that you can’t take science and neatly divide it into ‘physics’, ‘chemistry’, ‘biology’.

  • No Marcus you can’t divide it neatly like that. And Rutherford’s point was you can almost divide it in to two, the stuff that is physics (or physics in disguise) and the stuff that is just counting, collecting and sorting. Though to be fair to most that is a bit of a generalisation

  • So a physicist has been awarded the chemistry prize for working on a biology problem.

    When it all comes down to it each field offers important and complementary contributions to humanity. Although I trained in chemistry my work still draws on knowledge from biology and physics. I tend to refer to myself as a scientist not a chemist because of this.

    Good humoured fun is fine, but when people get too serious about which science is “better” I get annoyed. There are enough critics if science from outside, without having to worry about divisions within science.