Italian scientist ‘robbed’ of Nobel Prize

October 8th, 2008 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Rome, Oct 8 (DPA) Italy’s scientific community is up in arms over what it charges as the unfair exclusion of an Italian researcher from this year’s Nobel Prize for physics.The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Tuesday awarded the prize to US researcher Yoichiro Nambu and his Japanese colleagues Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, for discoveries linked to describing the smallest building blocks in nature.

But Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics president Roberto Petronzio slammed the omission of Nicola Cabibbo from honour.

“What bitterness, Kobayashi and Maskawa, have the sole merit of generalizing, moreover in a simple way, the idea of Cabibbo,” Petronzio was quoted as saying by daily La Repubblica Wednesday.

The Stockholm-based Academy cited Kobayashi and Maskawa “for the discovery of the origin of broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.”

“An incredible scandal, Cabibbo made the first and fundamental part of the discovery,” the honorary president of the Italian Physics association, Renato Angelo Ricci, told the daily Corriere della Sera.

The academy’s decision to exclude Cabibbo also drew criticism beyond Italy’s borders.

“Physics Nobel snubs key researcher,” said the respected British publication, New Scientist, referring to Cabibbo, who it said had “laid the ground work for Kobayashi and Maskawa.”

Cabibbo, a professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University and president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences was not immediately available for comment on the issue.

“These three people - Cabibbo, Kobayashi and Maskawa - are mentioned so often together that we usually just say C-K-M rather than saying all three of their multi-syllabic names,” particle physicist Joe Lykken told US-based National Public Radio.

Half of this year’s Nobel prize, worth 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) will go to Nambu, while Kobayashi and Maskawa share the other half.

Nobel prizes were endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and the award ceremonies are held December 10, the anniversary of his 1896 death in San Remo, Italy.

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