Ilya Prigigine receiving 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry
Belgian thermodynamicist Ilya Prigogine receiving the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry from Swedish king Karl XVI Gustav.
In thermodynamics awards, Nobel Prize winners in thermodynamics are those individuals, i.e. physicists, chemists, thermodynamicists, engineers, biochemists, etc., to have had both a significant background or connection in thermodynamics or energy and to have won a Nobel Prize, either in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, or economics based on work connected to thermodynamics. A little over a dozen people, as listed below, have won the prize, based on work connect to or in thermodynamics. Russian thermodynamicist Ivan Bazarov give his take on the relation of thermodynamics to the Nobel Prize in the following humorous quote: [1]

“The second law of thermodynamics is, without a doubt, one of the most perfect laws in physics. Any reproducible violation of it, however small, would bring the discoverer great riches as well as a trip to Stockholm. The world’s energy problems would be solved at one stroke. It is not possible to find any other law (except, perhaps, for super selection rules such as charge conservation) for which a proposed violation would bring more skepticism than this one. Not even Maxwell’s laws of electricity or Newton’s law of gravitation are so sacrosanct, for each has measurable corrections coming from quantum effects or general relativity.”

Of thermodynamicist Laureates, the 1977 win of the Nobel Prize in chemistry by Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine, pictured adjacent receiving the prize from the hands of King Karl XVI Gustav, did the most to effect a change in the public thinking about role of thermodynamics in human existence and in evolution. The arguments from his 1972 article "Thermodynamics of Evolution", to exemplify this point, formed the opening section to his Nobel Lecture. [6]

The prize was first awarded in 1901 in the main fields and began to be awarded in 1969 in economics. The award was established in 1895 by the will of Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel of the funds derived from his 1867 discovery of dynamite. With the exception of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Prizes and the prize in economics are presented in Stockholm, Sweden, at the annual Prize Award Ceremony on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel's death. Those connected thermodynamic laureates are listed below. [2]

1.Jacobus van’t Hoff1901ChemistryPublished Studies in Chemical Dynamics (1884), in which he described a new method for determining the order of a reaction using graphics, applied the laws of thermodynamics to chemical equilibria, and introduced the modern thermodynamic interpretation of chemical affinity; won for his work with solutions.
2.Wilhelm Ostwald1909ChemistryFor work on catalysis and associated fundamental studies on chemical equilibria and rates of reaction; also outlined cessation thermodynamic (energetic) views; and stated the energetic imperative (1912).
3.Johannes van der Waals1910PhysicsFor his 1873 work in developing an equation of state for liquids and solids based on the work of Clausius and Gibbs.
4.Wilhelm Wien1911PhysicsFor work in radiation thermodynamics.
5.Max Planck1918PhysicsFor originated quantum theory by explaining black body radiation via his postulate of energy quanta (energy element), based on the 1872 work of Boltzmann.
6.Fritz Haber1918ChemistryPublished Thermodynamics of Technical Gas Reactions (1905), the first systematic study of all the thermodynamic data necessary for the calculation of the free energy changes in a group of important reactions; won for the synthesis of ammonia.
7.Walther Nernst1920ChemistryEstablished his heat theorem (1905), now called the third law of thermodynamics, which describes the behavior of matter as temperatures approaching absolute zero; a theory which provided a means of determining chemical affinities or free energies (and therefore equilibrium points) of chemical reactions from heat measurements; won for his thermochemistry work.
8.Frederick Soddy1921ChemistryFor work in radioactivity; published some of the first work in economic thermodynamics.
9.Albert Einstein1921PhysicsTwenty-eight of his first thirty papers were in thermodynamics; explained the nature of mass-energy equivalence (1905), and building on the work of Planck explained the photoelectric effect using the postulate that light interacts with matter as discrete packets of energy or light quanta; won for his work in theoretical physics.
10.Henri Bergson1927LiteratureIn his 1907 Creative Evolution, and works to follow, worked to outline a unified theory of religion, evolution, and thermodynamics.
11.Albert Szent-Gyorgyi 1931PhysiologyFor isolating vitamin C; was a bioenergetics pioneer; In 1974 proposed to replace the term "negative entropy" (or negentropy) with “syntropy”, which he pictured as a force which causes living things to reach "higher and higher levels of organization, order and dynamic harmony"; followed this up with his 1977 article "Drive in Living Matter to Perfect Itself".
12.Charles Sherrington1932PhysiologyPublished his philosophical Man on His Nature, with entropy, evolution, life discussions.
13.Erwin Schrödinger1933PhysicsPublished What is Life? (1944) and Statistical Thermodynamics (1946); won for his work in quantum mechanics, i.e. the development of the Schrodinger equation (1926).
14.Heike Kamerlingh-Onnes1936PhysicsUsing the Joule-Thomson effect, reached a temperature of 0.9 K (1908); won for investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures which led, inter alia, to the production of liquid helium.
15.Enrico Fermi1938PhysicsWhile writing the appendix for the Italian edition of the book Foundation of Einstein's Relativity, written by A. Kopff, pointed out, for the first time, the fact that hidden inside the famous Einstein equation (E = mc²), there was a enormous amount of energy (nuclear energy) to be exploited; author of the 1936 Thermodynamics; won for his discovery of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons.
16.Percy Bridgman1946PhysicsPublished A Condensed Collection of Thermodynamic Formulas (1925), Thermodynamics of Electrical Phenomena in Metals (1934), and The Nature of Thermodynamics (1941); won for work in high pressure physics.
17.William Giauque1949ChemistryStudent of the Lewis school; won contribution to the field of chemical thermodynamics, particularly concerning the behavior of substances at extremely low temperatures.
18.Bertrand Russell1950LiteratureNoted for his 1927 lecture on heat death and religion; won for “his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”
19.Fritz Lipmann1953MedicineDeveloped the thermodynamics of ATP function (1941); later used this work to discover co-enzyme A.
20.Lars Onsager1968Chemistry For the discovery of the reciprocal relations (1931), fundamental equations in the thermodynamics of irreversible processes.
21.Paul Samuelson1970EconomicsSecond generation student of Gibbs, via Edwin Wilson; won for his development of static and dynamic economic economics theory (utilized physics analogs).
22.Christian Anfinsen1972ChemistryFor work on the thermodynamic hypothesis of protein folding.
23.Tjalling Koopmans1975EconomicsPeople as "molecules" of economic life theory (1947); entropy applied to economics in 1979.
24.Ilya Prigogine1977Chemistry For his contributions to nonequilibrium thermodynamics, particularly his theory of dissipative structures.
25.John Avery1995PeacePublished Information Theory and Evolution (2003), which argues that "life feeds on Gibbs free energy"; won for efforts with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
26.John Fenn2002ChemistryPhD dissertation: “The Thermodynamics of Hydrochloric Acid in Methanol-Water Mixtures” (1940), wrote Engines, Energy, and Entropy: a Thermodynamics Primer (1982); won for work in the field of mass spectrometry, specifically for the electrospray ionization technique often used to identify and analyze biological macromolecules.

Percy Bridgman (Nobel Prize photo 1946)
Percy Bridgman receiving the Nobel Prize from King Gustav V of Sweden, December 11, 1946.

Other notes
Most believe that Willard Gibbs (1839-1903), known for his 1876 work, and Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906), known for his 1872 work, would have won had they lived long enough (Van der Waals, for example, won (1909) for his 1873 work).

Many cite the example of Gilbert Lewis, one the central founders of modern chemical thermodynamics, who was nominated 35 times for the Nobel Prize, four of his students being Nobel Prize winners, but never winning himself. [3]
In 1998, African physical chemist Adriaan de Lange commented on this: [9]

“The fact that Lewis never was awarded the Nobel Prize for breathtaking work is one of the stains in the history of this prize. Yet the very same Lewis was the direct mentor of more Nobel Prize winners in chemistry than any Nobel Prize winner in any category.”

In 2002, English physical chemist Keith Laidler commented in a biography on him that “Lewis never received the Nobel Prize, but many physical chemists feel that he well deserved one.” [5]
In 2003 scientific biographers Istvan and Magdolna Hargittai comment on the Lewis issue: “in 1916, [Lewis] postulated that the electrons in atoms of higher atomic number in the periodic table than helium were divided into an inner shell with the electronic structure of the preceding zero-valent noble gas, and an outer valence shell of electrons which determined the number and character of bonds to other atoms, in which each atom attained the electronic structure of the preceding noble gas … Lewis published these ideas in his 1923 book Valence and the Structure of Atoms and Molecules; the Noble Prize in Chemistry was left unfilled in 1919, 1924 and 1933 for ‘lack of candidates of suitable stature’, and Lewis would have been an appropriate candidate … in fact [during these period] he was nominated by [no other than] inorganic chemist and science historian J. R. Partington.” [7]
Nobel Prize 400px
Nobel prize medal.

In April of 1951, while in the midst of writing a book on thermodynamics (Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics), German theoretical physicist Arnold Sommerfeld been nominated 81 times for the Nobel prize (more than any other physicist), but not yet having won, was killed from injuries after a traffic accident while walking his grandchildren. The book was published posthumously the following year. [8]

Rumford Medal-Prize
In 1796, Benjamin Thompson, known as Count Rumford, gave $5000 separately to the Royal Society of London and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to give awards every two years for outstanding scientific research on heat or light. The Royal Society awards the Rumford Medal (restricted to Europeans); the American Academy of Arts and Sciences awards the Rumford Prize. [4]

See also
Prigogine medal
● EoHT wiki: Thermodynamics Medal (Proposal)

1. Bazarov, Ivan P. (1964). Thermodynamics. Pergamon.
2. List of Nobel laureates - Wikipedia.
3. (a) FAQ#1: How many people are nominated each year for the Noble Prize, such as in chemistry? Answer: about 250-350 per year (Source: Nomination and Selection for the Nobel Laureates)
(b) FAQ#2: How many nomiations does one need to win? Answer: there is no immediate answer. Mahatma Gandhi, for instance, received 12 nominations between 1937 and 1948, but was never awarded the Nobel Prize. Similarly, Banting and Macleod were awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine the first year they were nominated (with three nominations) for their discovery of insulin. By contrast, Robert Koch was nominated 55 times over 4 years before he received the Prize in 1905 for his discoveries concerning tuberculosis (Source: Nomination Facts)
4. (a) Rumford Medal – Wikipedia.
(b) Rumford Prize – Wikipedia.
5. Laidler, Keith J. (2002). The World of Physical Chemistry (pg. 437). Oxford University Press.
6. (a) Prigogine, Ilya, Nicolis, Gregoire, and Babloyants, Agnes. (1972). "Thermodynamics of Evolution," (part I). Physics Today (pgs. 23-28), Vol. 25, November.
(b) Prigogine, Ilya, Nicolis, Gregoire, and Babloyants, Agnes. (1972). "Thermodynamics of Evolution," (part II). Physics Today (pgs. 38-44), Vol. 25, December.
(c) Prigogine, Ilya. (1977). “Time, Structure and Fluctuations”, Nobel Lecture, Dec. 08.
7. Hargittai, Istvan and Hargittai, Magdolna. (2003). Candid Science III (pg. 489). Imperial College Press.
8. (a) Sommerfeld, Arnold. (1952). Thermodynamik und Statistik - Vorlesungen über theoretische Physik Band 5 Herausgegeben von Fritz Bopp und Josef Meixner. Diederich sche Verlagsbuchhandlung.
(b) Sommerfeld, Arnold, edited by F. Bopp and J. Meixner, and translated by J. Kestin. (1964). Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics - Lectures on Theoretical Physics Volume V. Academic Press.
(c) Crawford, Elisabeth. (2001). “Nobel Population 1901-50: Anatomy of a Scientific Elite”, November 15, 2007,
9. De Lange, A.M. (1998). “Entropy”, Oct 30,

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