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Normal Science: Prizes in the Swedish Academy of Sciences before Nobel
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History of Science and Ideas.
2019 (English)In: Nuncius: annali di storia della scienza, ISSN 0394-7394, E-ISSN 1825-3911, Vol. 34, p. 356-376Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Prizes have been awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences from its foundationin 1739 onwards. In the 18th century these were of a kind typical of the period:problems were posed, almost always with a utilitarian bent, and awards (money ormedals) were promised to those who could come up with practical solutions. TheAcademy’s first prize question, in 1739, concerned an improved method for bleachingcloth; the response was zero, a not untypical result. This type of award was never asuccess, and from around 1810 prizes became more academically oriented and wereoffered for recent publications or innovations rather than solutions to problems posedbeforehand. The Letterstedt Prize was the most important among these awards duringthe 19th century, and a model for the Nobel Prize. It was awarded mostly for work inthe natural sciences, but sometimes also in the humanities or for technological innovations(Alfred Nobel received it in 1868); a special prize was awarded for translations. Ananalysis of nominations and discussions preserved in the Academy’s archive shows thatthe Letterstedt science prizes functioned as a kind of benchmarking of national science(foreigners were not awarded on principle); high-quality “normal” science that seemedto put Swedish science on par with research in countries like Germany or France wasawarded rather than work of high originality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 34, p. 356-376
Keywords [en]
normal science – science prizes – The Swedish Academy of Sciences
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-400039DOI: 10.1163/18253911-03402008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-400039DiVA, id: diva2:1380008
Available from: 2019-12-18 Created: 2019-12-18 Last updated: 2019-12-18

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